Student ordered to pay $100,000 over Twitter defamation of teacher

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A music teacher in Australia has been awarded £57,000 ($AUS105,000) in damages for defamation on Twitter and Facebook after she was targeted by a former student who “bore a grudge”.

Andrew Farley, 20, the son of the school’s head of the music and arts department, wrote defamatory messages about Christine Mickle, 58, who replaced Mr Farley’s father. He had never been taught by the popular teacher but posted the messages a year after graduating, suggesting she was responsible for the fate of his father, who stood down in 2008 for health reasons.

“For some reason it seems that the defendant bears a grudge against the plaintiff, apparently based on a belief that she had something to do with his father leaving the school,” said district court judge Michael Elkaim.

“There is absolutely no evidence to substantiate that belief.”

The case comes ahead of a separate defamation action in Australia brought by the Liberal party pollsters Mark Textor and Lynton Crosby, who also work as Tory advisers. The duo are suing a former Labor MP, Mike Kelly, over a tweet accusing them of introducing Australia to “push polling”, or using loaded questions to sway poll outcomes.

In Britain, Sally Bercow, wife of the Commons Speaker, was last year forced to make a public apology and pay damages to Lord McAlpine after the High Court found a tweet by her which falsely linked him to allegations of child sexual abuse was defamatory. She was reportedly forced to pay about £15,000, plus costs.

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