'Public interest' at stake in Universal Medicine case
By Sam McKeith
THE lawyer defending a blogger accused of defaming Lismore-based spiritual healer Serge Benhayon has told a court that "important issues of public interest" are at play in the case.
Mr Behayon, the founder of Universal Medicine, is suing blogger and acupuncturist Esther Rockett in the NSW Supreme Court for defamation over claims made online and in tweets.
Ms Rockett, a former client of the tennis coach turned healer, has been defending the claims at a four-person jury trial in Sydney on several bases, including truth and honest opinion.
On Friday, Ms Rockett's counsel, Tom Molomby, QC, said another "separate defence" open to her was that she had "behaved reasonably" in publishing, given all the circumstances.
"I'm talking about Ms Rockett's behaviour overall," Mr Molomby said.
In his closing address, he said Ms Rockett's "quest and her publications" involved "very important issues of public interest", including physical and mental health and emotional and financial exploitation.
He also pointed to Ms Rockett becoming involved "in the whole thing" largely by accident after a "creepy experience" with Mr Benhayon.
Ms Rockett has previously claimed that the north coast-based healer performed a "sleazy ovarian reading" on her during a consultation in 2005.
"That is the anchor pin of everything that followed," Mr Molomby said.
The court heard that after reading about Universal Medicine in a news article, Ms Rockett undertook "diligent research" and wrote "thoughtfully written and carefully researched" letters to regulatory authorities about the group.
"They're really well done," Mr Molomby told the court.
"That's a real sign of what her approach was overall."
She also made "first hand" contact with "decent, level-headed" people who were estranged from their former partners, the court heard.
"She was getting from the front line the best anyone could reasonably get."
By contrast, Mr Molomby suggested to the jury that Ms Rockett's concern about a "whole range" of Universal Medicine activities was met with "strong counter attack" by the group.
He said that by early 2014 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had received 150 complaints about Ms Rockett "as part of a co-ordinated campaign".
The defence barrister also referred to a "vitriolic attack" from Universal Medicine on a News Limited journalist.
"She (Ms Rockett) was met with obfuscation and deviation of the debate," he said.
The plaintiff's closing argument is expected to start on Wednesday.
The trial continues before Justice Julie Lonergan.