I figured this sort of empty threat would be made, which is why I posted my earlier blog entry on David Bain, Reasonable Doubt and Defamation.
As is no secret, not everyone agrees with jury verdicts. The David Bain trial is no exception, and some people still believe that David Bain murdered his Family. Some of them have even started a Facebook group called “David Bain is Guilty” for people who think that this is true.
Apparently some media law experts think that this makes those people vulnerable to a defamation suit. Their reasons for saying so, however, are not at all compelling. According to media law lecturer Ursula Cheer, even a small note on a person’s facebook account indicating that they were part of this group could be an act of defamation. Wellington media law lecturer Steven price had this to say:
“The main defence would be, is it true? And if David Bain wanted to test that in court he could sue for defamation.”
The person making the claim would then have to prove on the balance of probabilities, that Mr Bain did it, Mr Price said.
“And that’s very different from a standard of reasonable doubt.”
Yes, it is a different standard from reasonable doubt – and that works in favour of the person making the accusation. It means that a person making the accusation doesn’t have to prove David’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. It means that they would only have to show that it was more probable than not, which is a lighter burden of proof. Saying “and that’s a very different standard from a standard of reasonable doubt” as though that should be a daunting thing for the accuser is just strange. But secondly, that’s not the main defence at all. As I noted in my earlier blog on the subject, the accuser does not have to show that it’s true at all. All he needs to show is that it’s a belief that he reasonably holds, which is a much smaller burden of proof again.
These threatening sounding warnings carry no real weight. If you really do think that David did it, then as long as you hold your belief reasonably, you are allowed to say so in whatever forum you like.