Racing boss Peter V’landys has lost his case against the ABC over a program that spliced his interview with graphic footage of horses being slaughtered.
Racing boss Peter V’landys has lost the defamation case he brought against the ABC over an episode of 7.30 featuring graphic footage of horses being slaughtered at an abattoir in Queensland.
Federal Court Justice Michael Wigney said the program may not have portrayed Mr V’landys in a positive light but did not defame him in a judgment handed down on Friday afternoon.
The program, aired on October 17, 2019, was titled The Final Race and featured shocking footage of distressed horses being slaughtered at the Meramist Abbatoir, north of Brisbane.
A recorded interview with Mr V’landys was juxtaposed with the graphic footage throughout.
Central to Mr V’landys case was the fact investigative journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna and the program’s producers did not show him the bombshell footage prior to his interview.
The Australian Rugby League Commission chairman said the program falsely portrayed him as someone who callously permitted the slaughter of horses and who was indifferent to the cruelty meted out at the abattoir.
But Justice Wigney ruled the program did not convey those things about Mr V’landys and it instead suggested regulators were “asleep at the wheel”.
The impression overall was not that racing bosses were knowingly permitting such cruelty, but rather the rules in place to stop it were ineffective and “unscrupulous operators” were exploiting the system, the judge said.
He said it made Mr V’landys assertions that he had confidence in the Racing NSW rules look “foolish” but did not go so far as to make him look like a liar.
Mr V’landys also argued the ABC and Ms Meldrum-Hanna acted with malice in publishing the story, but again Justice Wigney was unconvinced.
He said he understood why Mr V’landys felt aggrieved that he had not seen the footage or been made aware of it, and why he might be upset about how it was deployed in a “perhaps overly dramatic and sensationalist way”.
But on the whole, his evidence did not stack up to a finding the ABC acted dishonestly, the judge found.
More to come.