17 Apr 2014

Karam wins defamation case

2:26 pm on 17 April 2014

David Bain campaigner Joe Karam hopes his victory in a defamation case will lead to mainstream media being more careful about the way they use social media sources.

Mr Karam has been awarded $535,000 in damages for untrue statements made by two men on Facebook and a website.

Long-time Bain supporter Joe Karam.

Long-time Bain supporter Joe Karam. Photo: RNZ

Mr Bain was acquitted on retrial of murdering his parents and three siblings in Dunedin in 2009.

In her judgement, Justice Courtney said the comments on the sites were a full scale assault on Mr Karam's reputation.

Mr Karam said that was made far worse when the views of Kent Parker and Victor Purkiss were given coverage in mainstream media.

He said they openly and continually sought publicity in the media which led to more exposure for their websites.

Mr Karam said the comments would have stayed within a small group of people if large media outlets had not become involved.

Mr Karam previously reached a legal settlement with Fairfax and TradeMe over the issue.

In the High Court ruling, Justice Courtney said about 50 defamatory statements were made by the pair about Mr Karam on their Facebook page and website.

She said few aspects of Mr Karam's reputation were left untouched in the comments as they accused him of dishonesty, fraud, and lack of integrity, among other things.

Justice Courtney said Mr Karam had a significant and positive reputation before becoming involved in the Bain case

She said she believes Joe Karam when he says the campaign against him was the worst four years of his life, accepting witness evidence that he was preoccupied, unsociable, and visibly distressed during that time.

Mr Karam told Radio New Zealand that he doesn't expect he will receive the money awarded to him:

"Whether they've got any money, or how much they've got, is hard to tell. Purkiss disappeared (he took off and didn't even come to defend himself) to England.

''I know that he does have funds, but whether he can be found and whether those funds are still available, I don't know. My lawyers are pursuing it," said Mr Karam.

In a statement on his website, Parker said he disagreed with the ruling and will appeal.

"It became evident to me early on the proceedings last year that I was not getting my message across. This time I avow I will not fail. I know what the result should be and I will do my utmost to get it there."