Queensland 18C case at QUT: Cindy Prior must pay students $200,000-plus

Queensland 18C case at QUT: Cindy Prior must pay students $200,000-plus, by Hedley Thomas.

Section 18C complainant Cindy Prior faces being pursued into bankruptcy after a judge ordered she pay an estimated $200,000 in legal costs for three QUT students who were accused of racial hatred over Facebook posts. …

Judge Jarrett rejected arguments by Ms Prior’s barrister, Susan Anderson, including that the ill-fated and controversial legal action to win $250,000 compensation from the students should be treated differently because it was brought in the public interest.

The judge, who last month dismissed Ms Prior’s section 18C ­Racial Discrimination Act case against the students as having “no reasonable prospects of success”, made a distinction between public interest litigation and the personal financial benefit she sought as compensation. …

While Ms Prior faces financial ruin unless she can raise the money, her solicitor was spared the rare ignominy of being ­ordered to pay costs personally.

Judge Jarrett said as the case was not completely “hopeless”, he rejected a bid by Mr Wood’s ­barrister, Michael Henry, to have costs awarded against Ms Moriarty. …

Mr Morris told Judge Jarrett that in the build-up of the case, which was with the Human Rights Commission for 14 months, the students were “held to ransom to get $5000 (from each) for a fighting fund”.

Mr Powell’s Facebook post came after Mr Wood wrote: “Just got kicked out of the unsigned ­indigenous computer room. QUT stopping segregation with segregation?”

Mr Wood wrote it shortly after he was ejected from the Oodgeroo Unit by Ms Prior after she had asked him whether he was indigenous. Judge Jarrett found that Mr Wood’s words “were rallying against racial discrimination” and not a breach of section 18C, which makes it unlawful to cause offence or humiliation on the basis of race.

That might have a chilling effect on vexatious or gold-digging complaints made with 18C. What of the HRC’s role in encouraging this and other cases? Obviously the initial demand for $5,000 from each of the students was a shakedown, an example of the PC using the law and a friendly system to extort their cultural opponents.

Tim Blair is less kind:

The Queensland University of Technology administrative assistant attempted to wreck the lives of three kids over an alleged racial slur. Big mistake. …

Please. I was once robbed in Dallas by a couple of black guys. I’ve been back there several times since, happily dealing face-to-face with black people. Who hasn’t had problems with folk of a different hue — white, black, whatever — and then moved on from those problems?

This entire case was rubbish.