All of them, those in power, and those who want the power, would pamper us, if we agreed to overlook their crookedness by wilfully restricting our activities.
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Describing it as being "in a class by itself," the Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a $1.6-million jury award to Casey Hill, an Ontario government lawyer who sued the Church of Scientology for libel over comments made at a news conference in 1984.
"Scientology decided that Casey Hill was the enemy and it set out to destroy him," the court says in a 129-page judgment released yesterday. "It levelled false charges against him. It prosecuted him on those charges. . . . In summary, the evidence suggests that Scientology set upon a persistent course of character assassination over a period of seven years with the intention of destroying Casey Hill."
The jury awarded general damages of $300,000 against Scientology and lawyer Morris Manning, who, while wearing his barrister's gown on the steps of Osgoode Hall, read from, and commented upon, allegations contained in a notice of motion which Scientology intended to use in contempt proceedings against Mr. Hill. The allegations against Mr. Hill were untrue and without foundation, the appeal court said.
The jury also awarded $500,000 in aggravated damages against Scientology and a further $800,000 in punitive damages against Scientology.
Mr. Justice W. David Griffiths wrote that the appeal court had reviewed the evidence and found that it was sufficient to find "malice and egregious conduct on the part of Scientology."
The judgment was endorsed by Mr. Justice Marvin Catzman and Mr. Justice Patrick Galligan.
The malice alone was sufficient to merit the punitive damage award, the judgment said, and "what seemed to be of overriding importance was the need for specific deterrence of Scientology to prevent it from repeating its libel."
Scientology was not easily deterred, the appeal court judges said. It not only published the libel when there was no evidence to support the allegations but continued with its unfounded proceedings against Mr. Hill when it knew the principal allegation was untrue. It also made allegations that it knew were untrue in documents it submitted to the court.
No apology was tendered, and "the jury was entitled to take the absence of an apology into account when weighing" the damage inflicted by Scientology and Mr. Manning.
Lawyers for the Church of Scientology and Mr. Manning argued before the appeal court that the award was at least 10 times the highest permitted until now by a Canadian appeal court. They said that Scientology and Mr. Manning made the statements on an occasion of qualified privilege, in that they were a fair and accurate report to the media about a proceeding that was before a court.
Reached yesterday, Mr. Hill's lawyer, Robert Armstrong, said: "The original verdict of the jury in 1991 represented a complete vindication of the professional and personal reputation and integrity of Casey Hill, and this judgment is a clear confirmation of that.