Victorian police officer wins $150,000 over defamatory online posts

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A Victorian police officer has been awarded $150,000 in damages over defamatory online posts that alleged he had executed teenager Tyler Cassidy in 2008.

Sergeant Colin Dods was involved in the shooting death of the 15-year-old who threatened police with knives at a skate park in Northcote, in Melbourne’s inner north-east.

A lengthy coronial inquest cleared the police officers of wrongdoing.

Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bell labelled a series of statements posted online by Queensland barrister Michael McDonald in 2012 as a “baseless challenge to the moral foundation of the plaintiff’s personal integrity and public standing”.

Mr McDonald was found guilty of using his personal website to defame Sgt Dods in a series of posts claiming he had executed the teenager and should be charged with manslaughter.

In awarding damages, Justice Bell said Mr McDonald had implied the police officer had “gunned down Tyler like he was a monster or mongrel dog … unlawfully used excessive force … committed manslaughter”.

He acknowledged the scope of the publication was not large but said the damages awarded had to be sufficient to vindicate Sgt Dods reputation.

“The publications caused the plaintiff to suffer continuing intense distress, humiliation and embarrassment and thereby great harm to his reputation,” he said. Outside court, Sgt Dods said he was glad the case was over and that he had been vindicated.

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