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On Wednesday, September 18, 2013, the final step in an attempt by Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network to silence me was terminated when her appeal against a court decision was formally withdrawn and dismissed. You can read the history of the action here.
Ms Dorey was not happy with the result, and on September 21 she published the following article on the AVN blog. To avoid accusations that I have misrepresented her, you can read the original diatribe here. The parts marked in yellow (the colour of anti-vaccination lying) are where Ms Dorey has said something which might not necessarily be true (for certain values of "true"). My responses are in italics.
Silencing the opposition
This last week has been a time of tough decisions. A time when I had to make a choice between pursuing justice in the courts or cutting my losses and pulling out of what I saw as a totally biased system where the cards are stacked against me - not because of a lack of evidence but simply because of a perceived bias against my stance on a political and scientific issue.
Ms Dorey should be very careful about accusing judicial officers of bias. She tried this in my case and the Magistrate was not impressed. Also, politics and science were not mentioned in the Court. The cases were about an attempt to abuse legislation specifically design to protect people from the immediate threat of physical violence.
I chose to withdraw my Apprehended Personal Violence Order (APVO) appeal against Peter Bowditch and, true to form, the skeptics and SAVN have been making false statements about my reason for doing so to members of the media - statements which I believe require a response.
Let me preface this by saying that these cases were initiated by me personally. They are not AVN matters, though I believe it is my involvement with the AVN which has influenced the courts against me, causing them to be decided on the personal preconceived opinions of the magistrates involved, rather than on the merits and the evidence presented.
In the words of the Magistrate who heard my case: "I make it very clear again. This case is not about vaccination, pro or otherwise. This case is not about the AVN". I'm sure Ms Dorey has a transcript of the hearing (she would have been very foolish to lodge an appeal without reading what happened in court, and she had 28 days to do that between the decision and her lodging an appeal).
A bit of history
Last year, at the suggestion of police in two NSW jurisdictions, I filed three separate APVOs: against Daniel Raffaele, founder of Stop the AVN (SAVN), Peter Bowditch, committee member of the Australian Skeptics and Dan Buzzard, WA member of SAVN.
I could have filed APVOs against many more SAVN members. So many have threatened and harassed me, as well as inciting others to do me harm, but these were the three whom I considered to be the ‘ringleaders' - whose abuse and harassment were unremitting. My reasons for taking this action were two-fold
Ms Dorey was unable to provide enough evidence of the "abuse and harassment" to convince either of two magistrates that she had a case.
1- To stop them from continuing their criminal campaign of abuse, harassment and threats against me; and
One day I'm going to get very tired of Ms Dorey's continual use of the word "criminal" when talking about me and I will be forced to suspend my policy of not suing people who defame me.
2- To send a warning to others that the justice system would protect someone who was being openly abused, harassed and threatened.
My family and I were living in great fear that one of these individuals would either harm us or would incite someone else in the community to do so. I had no funds for legal advice but I was told by the police that applying for an APVO would be straightforward and simple, so I proceeded to make the application. At no time did they inform me that they themselves could have applied for the APVO. Had they done so, I would have insisted that they do it and a whole lot of time, heartache and expense could have been saved.
The police possibly refrained from offering to submit the application themselves because it was not a matter where they saw any reason to act. Ms Dorey has stated that the police advised her on the relevant procedure. I know people in both law enforcement and community services and it is indisputable that when the police feel the need for their involvement they act without delay. Just as when suggesting bias on the part of judicial officers, Ms Dorey should be careful about attributing intent to the police.
Simple and Straightforward
At the time I first applied, I had no idea that the ensuing process would be incredibly slow, outrageously expensive to me - the victim of this abuse - and a total waste of time.
If Ms Dorey had turned up on the days when she was supposed to be in court, had filed her submissions on time, had refrained from asking the court to extend a non-existent order on me and had not wasted four months with an appeal that she ran away from at the last minute this whole thing would have taken a lot less time.
I admit I have become jaded over the years regarding the expectation of fair treatment from our bureaucracy. However I still believed it was possible to get justice from the courts, and that magistrates would pass judgment without allowing their personal preconceived biases to interfere. I was a babe in the woods in that regard.
It is my firmly held belief, based on the evidence from both cases that actually went to trial, that my losses had nothing to do with the evidence presented to the courts. Based on that evidence alone - APVOs should have been granted without question. But both magistrates showed a strong disapproval for the work that I have done for the last 20 years with the AVN and I feel that they were unable to separate Meryl Dorey the mother, woman and victim of institutionalised and long-running abuse, from Meryl Dorey, ex-President of the AVN and vaccine rights advocate.
Again I will quote Magistrate Denes: "I make it very clear again. This case is not about vaccination, pro or otherwise. This case is not about the AVN". The NSW Attorney General has been advised of Ms Dorey's potential defamation of magistrates.
Just a clarifying note at this point for those who are unaware of my case against Daniel Raffaele: the APVO against him was granted without his making any admissions of wrongdoing even though threatening calls to my home were made from his house in the middle of the night. I was advised to accept these terms rather than going to trial. In retrospect, I think I made the right choice since even with the damning evidence against him, I am unsure that the courts would have granted my application had Raffaele opposed it.
SAVN Untruths and a complicit media
To make matters worse, however, SAVN and the Australian Skeptics are now using my withdrawal from the case against Peter Bowditch as an admission that I only took these actions in order to silence my critics.
Ms Dorey has been told on numerous occasions that there is no connection between the Stop the AVN Facebook page and Australian Skeptics Inc except for a coincidental overlap of membership. As far as I know, Australian Skeptics has made no comment about her withdrawal of the appeal.
Their excuse for saying this is based on a lie and they know it is based on a lie yet they continue to state it anyway.
When I went to the courthouse last year to make the initial applications, I selected several of the standard orders from the list available (orders which limited the perpetrator's ability to come near me or enter my property or threaten me). I also asked that they not be allowed to mention me in any online forum in a derogatory manner. At the initial mention in Ballina Courthouse almost a year ago, the magistrate said that he did not have the power to grant the latter order and I agreed to withdraw it. All I was asking the court to do was to prevent them from coming near me or physically threatening me. None of that would in any way ‘silence' them.
I was never informed of any change to the application. The condition that Ms Dorey claims was removed from the application was quoted in full by the magistrate hearing my case. At no time during that hearing did Ms Dorey object to it being mentioned.
From the transcript, this is what the Magistrate said:
Having since spoken with a solicitor about this, I have been told that there was no problem with my asking for these latter orders because my intention was to stop them from inciting others to commit violence against me or to join in harassing, abusing or stalking me as they and their cohorts had done for some time. My wording was the only issue and this became a moot point since that order was removed before either hearing.
I didn't care what the proposed conditions of the order were. If the only condition was that I couldn't take my next vacation in Iceland I would still have objected in principle to someone abusing the legal system by attempting to pervert the real objective of the legislation, which is to protect people from real and immediate threats of personal physical violence.
Dan Buzzard and Peter Bowditch are perfectly aware that this is the case - but they have continued to mislead the media - and the media have continued to print whatever they are told about me - stating that I only took out these APVOs in order to silence my opposition.
Ms Dorey stated in a television interview that her intent was to stop me talking about her. That sounds a lot like "silence my opposition".
In fact, during the time when these cases were still before the courts, sub judice reports were appearing in the media to the effect that taking away my opposition's right to free speech was the only reason I made these applications.
It is rather hypocritical of someone to cry about sub judice (which didn't apply to anything I said about the progress of the case) when she had provided her evidence and court statements to a third party in the USA for publication before she submitted them to the Court. Also, someone concerned about the integrity of the legal process probably should refrain from suggesting that magistrates are biased.
In addition to this and in a move that can only be called bizarre, Greens Senator Richard Di Natale stood up in Federal Parliament and stated that these applications were only being made to silence my opposition and he thanked two of the three perpetrators by name for their ‘work' in this regard!
And I thank him for doing that. Politicians of all stripes have been pandering to these health-endangering clowns for too long.
Decisions based on fact or bias
It is my belief that the magistrate in my case against Dan Buzzard may have used this misinformation in his decision since he did refer to media reports when making his summation. In fact, he criticised me openly many times during the hearing to the point where I was relieved to only have to pay $11,000 in court costs - at one point, I had the distinct impression that I was going to be sent to gaol. I do not remember him sanctioning Dan Buzzard even once despite his admissions to having asked people to send me violent pornography.
I am currently awaiting delivery of the transcripts from these cases and when I have received them, I will be updating everyone with exactly what occurred and why I feel that there were grave errors not only in law but also in fact which led to these adverse decisions.
If "there were grave errors ... in law", why was an appeal made to the District Court rather than the Supreme Court? If Ms Dorey was so sure of this why didn't she let the appeal run in the District Court and ask for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court? These are rhetorical questions.
Freedom of speech
If by silencing my opposition, SAVN and the Australian Skeptics mean that I wanted to stop them threatening, harassing and stalking me as they have done for so long and prevent them from inciting others to do the same, then I admit that's what I was trying to do.
Again I will mention that Ms Dorey knows full well that there is no connection except coincidence between Stop the AVN and Australian Skeptics. She should stop repeating this lie. I have never threatened, harassed or stalked her. If I had she would have been able to produce the evidence to convince a court.
If however, they mean that I want to take away their freedom of speech - their ability to engage in respectful and non-threatening debate on this or any other issue, I'm afraid they are completely wrong.
In my first submission to the Court I said "I do not want Ms Dorey's freedom to express her opinions to be compromised or restricted in any way". The submission was provided to Ms Dorey and I'm not sure how anyone could detect any ambiguity in what I said. She can debate whenever she likes, but others must have the right of criticism and reply.
Because I welcome that debate. I have asked for it publicly - over and over again. I support freedom of speech 100% and in fact, have been lobbying to have an Australian Bill of Rights introduced to codify this right and the right to other freedoms which most democratic nations take for granted but which, shamefully, do not exist in Australia.
If Ms Dorey's commitment to freedom of speech is "100%" then I'm sure she will immediately remove the blocks she has placed on my following her on Twitter, commenting on the AVN Facebook page, commenting on the AVN blog where she published this commentary, and participating in the two mailing lists she runs (I've been banned from one since about 1999). Not to allow me full access to these forums would be gross hypocrisy for anyone claiming "100%" support of the freedom of speech.
This is not a matter for question - it is and has been my stance in public and in private for 20 years now.
It is SAVN and their members - including Daniel Raffaele, Dan Buzzard and Peter Bowditch, who are the ones trying to silence their opposition. And they do it over and over again.
I have never tried to silence anyone. People can say whatever they like. Other people have the right to respond.
He asked that the AVN be required to comply with the laws applicable to providers of medical advice.
The aim of Stop the AVN is exactly what the name says. It is to stop the AVN from spreading lies about the dangers of vaccination. They can question vaccination as much as they like. They can publish these questions. What they can't do is deceive people by publishing fraudulent research or appealing to people's ignorance of science, medicine and logic.
As a doctor and the head of an organisation representing doctors, it should not be surprising that he supports what is possibly the most significant life-saver in the history of medicine. Also, I would like to see an exact quote of what he said.
The Senate passed the motion, not the individual Senator who proposed it. Ms Dorey's grasp of parliamentary procedure seems on par with her knowledge of science and the law.
It is a perfectly reasonable action for any citizen to object to the use of public facilities to promote ideas which are contrary to public policy. Ms Dorey has never been prevented from speaking by any action I have ever taken.
These people are truly guilty of using bureaucracy and the media to silence their opposition.
All I asked was that the courts protect me from these abusers who had openly threatened and harassed me. This is a protection that should be available to all Australian citizens and residents - indeed - to everyone in every country around the world. It is a basic human right which, thanks to what I consider to be the bias of the courts, was denied me in these cases.
There she goes again. Courts take their integrity very seriously, and the relevant magistrates have been informed of Ms Dorey's unfounded claim of bias.
Please note: I have sent a copy of this blog post to Jane Hansen of the Daily Telegraph and the Murdoch media. She had contacted me because she plans on writing a story for Sunday's paper about my APVO applications. I hope that, having set the record straight, her article will cover this issue fairly and truthfully.