Jarryd Hayne Fan Sues for Defamation

by Sonia Hickey
Jarryd Hayne

A fan of former NRL star Jarryd Hayne, Mr Mina Greiss, is suing Channel 7 after it published articles claiming he spat at Hayne’s accuser outside of the Newcastle District Courthouse after his idol was sentenced for sexual assault. 

At the time, media reports also claimed that some of Hayne’s supporters shouted obscenities at the complainant, and that several brawled with reporters outside the courthouse.

No arrests were ever made, although it’s been reported that Mr Greiss was issued with a criminal infringement notice in the sum of $500 for alleged offensive conduct on the day.

Convictions quashed and new trial ordered

Jarryd Hayne was sentenced to a minimum term of three years and eight months behind bars after being found guilty of two counts of sexual intercourse without consent with a woman at her Newcastle home. 

He served nine months behind bars at Cooma Correctional Centre on the south coast of New South Wales, before winning an appeal. 

His conviction was quashed and he will now face a retrial. 

Mr Hayne is also facing a civil suit filed by the alleged victim, who is seeking compensation for the damage caused by the assault. It is unlikely to proceed until the criminal trials are finalised. 

Channel 7 unleashes

Mr Greiss is suing Channel 7 after receiving ‘threats and abuse’ resulting from what he says were two false news reports that he spat at Hayne’s accuser outside court.

According to the lawsuit, Mr Greiss suffered significant reputational damage after the articles described him as a “grub” who committed a “vile act”. 

His high-profile lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou SC also represented former Federal politician Christian Porter in his defamation suit against the ABC, before being ordered to step aside from the case due to conflict of interest. 

Ms Chrysanthou SC told the court that Mr Greiss was outside the courthouse to support the former NRL star, but did not call the complainant names let alone spit at her. 

Mr Greiss is relying on CCTV footage taken outside the court on the day Mr Hayne was sentenced which, according to him, will prove he did not act as reported. 

The footage will be vital and could lead to a resolution of the claim by way of a monetary settlement. 

Both parties agree there are “extremely limited matters in dispute”, and will engage in mediation before the next court date, which is 31 October 2022. 

If the matter cannot be resolved, it is expected to proceed to a five day defamation trial beginning in March 2023. 

What is civil defamation?

The Defamation Act 2005 (NSW) requires that any civil proceedings of defamation need to be brought within a time period of 1 year, from the original date of the publication, but courts do have the power to extend this time limit if they believe it is necessary to do so. 

To establish that defamation occurred, meaning that someone’s reputation or credibility was brought into disrepute, three distinct components to be proven on the balance of probabilities. 

These are:

  1. Publication

Material must be published (which includes orally communicated) to at least one person other than the party who was allegedly defamed.

The publication can occur orally or in writing, whether in print, by way of digital communication or otherwise, but it must be comprehensible.

  1. Identification

The material must identify the allegedly defamed person either directly or indirectly, or be capable of doing so.

  1. Defamatory meaning

The material must be ‘defamatory’ to the ‘ordinary, reasonable’ person, which means it must be likely to:

  • cause the person to be shunned, shamed or avoided by others;
  • adversely affect the reputation of the person in the minds of right-thinking members of society; or damage to the person’s professional reputation by suggesting a lack of qualifications, skills, knowledge, capacity, judgment or efficiency in his or her trade, business or profession.

Defences to defamation in New South Wales 

There are several defences to defamation in New South Wales, including:

  • Substantial truth,
  • Contextual truth,
  • Absolute privilege,
  • Public documents,
  • Fair reporting of proceedings of public concern, 
  • Qualified privilege,
  • Honest opinion,
  • Innocent dissemination, and
  • Triviality.

The defence of ‘truth’ 

The ‘truth’ defence is currently being used by the The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times who are being sued by Australian soldier Ben Roberts Smith. The newspapers alleged that Mr Roberts Smith was involved in war crimes, specifically a number of murders. 

Mr Roberts Smith strongly denies the allegations, and says all of the killings were lawful and in the line of duty.

The trial has so far lasted more than 90 days, and has heard evidence from dozens of witnesses and experts. 

It’s reported to have cost at least $25 million.  

The new public interest defence

And in 2021, a new defence of ‘responsible communication in the public interest’ was introduced.

The defence applies where the material published is a matter of public concern and the defendant reasonably believed that publishing the information or material was in the public interest. 

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Author

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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