It was a bittersweet Christmas for John Marsden -“ but one that was not without joy.
The embattled solicitor finished chemotherapy treatment at 10am on Christmas Eve, and that same day received some excellent news from the Supreme Court.
A judgment delivered by Justices Beazley, Giles and Santow rejected a Channel Seven appeal of the decision handed down by Justice David Levine on the Marsden/Channel Seven defamation case.
When Levine delivered his judgment in June 2001 (which awarded Marsden $525,000 in damages), a Channel Seven spokesperson announced the network had several significant grounds for appeal and they remained confident that they would be vindicated by the Court of Appeal.
However the reverse happened -“ the Court of Appeal justices rejected the network’s 146 points of appeal and awarded Marsden further damages in relation to the Witness program. (The defamation case revolved around two Channel Seven programs, Today Tonight and Witness, both of which alleged Marsden had sex with men who were under the age of consent, including rent boys.)
It was an amazing judgment. They rejected every one of the appeal points, Marsden told Sydney Star Observer, adding that he was especially pleased to see that the judgment was unanimous.
It was a very emotional day, Marsden said of Christmas Eve.
The Court of Appeal justices found that Justice Levine had not erred in assessing ordinary compensatory damages, but that he had erred by not awarding aggravated damages for injury to feelings.
The appeal and cross-appeal have been listed for further mention on 14 February. Marsden said a retrial to determine damages could allow him to plead for damages based on economic loss suffered as a result of the broadcast programs. (Economic loss was not pleaded in the original defamation case, although Marsden has said publicly on numerous occasions that his legal firm lost many clients after the allegations were broadcast, particularly in the city office.)
It was a fairly big win for me, but my priority is getting over a cancer, Marsden said. My main aim is to get better. I want to get rid of the cancer and get on with my life.