A blogger who named two women referred to in Amber Harrison’s Human Rights Commission complaint as allegedly having affairs with Seven West CEO Tim Worner, has been sentenced to 4 months jail for contempt.
Shane Dowling, whose website cannot be named for legal reasons, published two profile names earlier this year. Both were named in court documents during the height of the legal battle between Worner and executive assistant Amber Harrison, but remain suppressed as “Jane Doe 1” & “Jane Doe 2”. Both strenuously denied the allegations, launching a subsequent defamation case.
On March 15th Dowling was found guilty of contempt of court, but flouted orders to remove the names, publishing fresh stories as recently as July 15. Yesterday Justice Ian Harrison directed him to stop publishing on social media during court sentencing.
Justice Ian Harrison said Dowling had “deliberately set out to disobey” the court’s orders who appeared to see himself as a “fierce proponent of free speech” and was “ferociously committed to the righteousness” of his views. Justice Harrison said Dowling’s “enthusiasm for the cause as he perceives it borders on obsession.”
Dowling maintained he’d done nothing more than “any journalist does every day around the country” in naming people referred to in tendered legal documents.
“This matter is a huge free speech, political communication and public interest matter,” he wrote. “If Australian courts are going to jail or penalise journalists for doing nothing more than reporting the news then Australia is no better than China or Russia.”
But Justice Harrison said he had “done more” than journalists do by disobeying court orders to remove the offending articles.