Joe Karam has won one of the largest defamation payouts
in the country, and says the $1 million in damages and costs
awarded is a warning to website owners and online commentators.
The David Bain supporter took a defamation case against
website publisher and online commentator Kent Parker and
online commentator Victor Purkiss for a ''full-scale assault
on Mr Karam's reputation'' after Mr Bain was cleared in 2009
of murdering five members of his family.
In her ruling released yesterday, Justice Patricia Courtney
awarded $525,000 compensation to Mr Karam for the injury
caused, and the payment of costs, anticipated to be about
$500,000. Mr Parker was ordered to pay damages of $350,500
and Mr Purkiss to pay $184,500.
Justice Courtney further punished the men by awarding
indemnity costs against them because they ''behaved
egregiously'' in choosing to use the defence of truth at the
High Court trial last October.
Mr Purkiss did not attend it, but Mr Parker admitted under
cross-examination by Mr Karam's lawyer, Michael Reed QC that
he could not prove his claims.
Legal sources confirmed the figure was one of the largest
defamation payouts in New Zealand history.
Mr Parker, of the Counterspin website and administrator of
the Facebook page ''Justice for Robin Bain'', confirmed
yesterday he would appeal and said he could not afford to pay
the $350,500 in damages awarded against him.
Mr Purkiss, a contributor to the Facebook page Counterspin
and other sites, could not be contacted last night. He now
lives in England.
The case was heard in the High Court at Auckland last
Mr Karam told the Otago Daily Times he was pleased with the
decision, ''and the damages awarded indicated the severity of
their behaviour and basically completely vindicated me''.
The judge noted Mr Karam, a successful businessman and former
All Black, enjoyed ''a significant and positive reputation
before becoming involved in the Bain case''.
Statements posted on Facebook, on Mr Parker's website
Counterspin and other websites including TradeMe message
boards had caused Mr Karam great distress.''
He described the period during which these statements were
posted as the worst four years of his life, and I believe
him,'' the judge noted.
She ordered that all defamatory messages be removed from the
Mr Karam told the ODT he thought the case was finished when
the retrial ended, but the online comments took their toll on
himself and his family, particularly his elderly parents. His
father died last year.
The judge accepted the description from Mr Reed that the
defamation was ''a full-scale assault on Mr Karam's
Few aspects of Mr Karam's reputation were left untouched,''
the judge noted.
Both Mr Purkiss and Mr Parker exacerbated the damage by
raising the profile of the Facebook page and Counterspin
website and giving an interview to a newspaper.
Mr Purkiss was found to be less culpable than Mr Parker, as
he was liable for his own posts and refrained from making
further defamatory remarks after proceedings were issued.
Mr Karam told the ODT that if the pair had taken ''the thing
down when I first wrote to them in 2009, none of this would
''Once it is on the web, it is up there forever and it
spreads around the whole world.''
Mr Karam said the case should serve as a reminder to online
publishers that ''they are responsible in exactly the same
way as the media''.
''The owners of websites are responsible for any blogs posted
on their websites so they need to be extremely careful.''
He confirmed his legal team was pursuing recovery of the
If the pair did not pay him, he would take bankruptcy
proceedings against them.
He said he and Fairfax NZ had earlier agreed to settle
defamation claims, on a confidential basis, arising from
articles on stuff.co.nz that drew attention to the websites
that contained the defamatory comments by Mr Parker and Mr
- Additional reporting The New Zealand Herald