Blogger defends Serge Benhayon 'dark past' claims
By Sam McKeith
A BLOGGER accused of defaming Universal Medicine founder Serge Benhayon has stood by publishing a press kit that referred to the "dark past" of the Lismore-based spiritual healer.
Esther Rockett, an acupuncturist and former Universal Medicine client, is being sued in the NSW Supreme Court by Mr Benhayon over claims made in blog posts and tweets, starting in 2014.
Ms Rockett is defending the claims at a four-person jury trial in Sydney on several bases including that what she published was true and reflected her honest belief.
On Thursday, the trial, currently in its third week, heard that Ms Rockett distributed a press kit in 2013 to journalists, MPs and others about the Universal Medicine group and Mr Benhayon.
The court was told that in the lengthy media kit Ms Rockett included the headings "underage sex", "suspicious death" and referred to "Benhayon's dark past".
The press kit also referred to Universal Medicine as a cult and suggested that the group used "mind control" and "hypnotic" techniques, the court was told.
It also heard that the press kit, which listed Ms Rockett and a Byron Bay resident as contacts, stated on its first page that evidence could be provided for "everything stated herein".
Quizzed about the bulky document by the plaintiff's barrister Kieran Smark, SC, Ms Rockett said claims in it were made "according to my analysis".
"It's a press kit, it's raising matters for investigation," she told the court.
"There was a possibility that needed to be investigated ... I don't see anything wrong with that."
The court heard that the kit mentioned conditions like anxiety, "paranoia" and personality change, but that Ms Rockett did not have formal qualifications in these areas.
"I don't have those qualifications," Ms Rockett conceded.
In her second day under cross-examination, Ms Rockett denied that a consult with a healer overseas had "coloured" her subsequent experience with Mr Benhayon.
"(It) informed it," she said.
Earlier, Ms Rockett agreed with Mr Smark that a Lismore detective told her in 2012 there was "no criminal offence" arising out of her complaint to police about an "ovarian reading" with Mr Benhayon.
"That appeared to be his opinion at that time," she said.
The blogger also admitted that she sometimes "struck up a conversation" with herself online about Universal Medicine by using the pseudonyms Venus Darkly and Pranic Princess.
Mr Benhayon, a former tennis coach, has previously told the trial he felt "raped" by the accusations made online against him by Ms Rockett.
The trial continues before Justice Julia Lonergan.