Gunns case shows we need anti-slapp laws in Victoria

Victorian Greens justice spokesperson, Sue Pennicuik MLC, today welcomed the news that the final four defendants in the long-running Gunns 20 case can finally get on with their lives.

"More than five years has passed since Gunns issued their terrible writ against the 20 defendants", Ms Pennicuik said. "Now, on the eve of going to trial, Gunns Ltd has pulled the pin and opted to pay out the remaining four defendants, rather than go to trial".

"It is clear now that there was never any chance of Gunns winning in court, the writ was simply a cynical strategy to tie up the defendants in a protracted legal action to prevent them from speaking out in defence of our native forests", she said. "It has been a mentally and financially exhausting ordeal for the defendants".

"Now is time for all states and territories to adopt anti-SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) laws similar to those already in place in the ACT and in US states such as California and Illinois to prevent such an action ever getting that far again", she said.

"Anti-SLAPP laws empower a judge to dismiss a case if he or she considers that the court is being misused for an ulterior non-legal purpose, i.e. to stop protesters from protesting", she said. "Powerful companies should not be able to use our courts to effectively silence community protest or participation in issues that affect their lives".

"Recent changes to defamation law do not go far enough. Corporations must not be permitted to misuse any law for devious purposes, including trespass, conversion, vicarious liability, or any law capable, where wrongly used, of silencing lawful protest", she concluded.

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