Ugly school defamation case ‘causing damage to everyone’

A JUDGE has slammed a Sunshine Coast dad and a teacher's aide for being too obstinate to settle a bitter year-long defamation fight, instead wasting time and money now and risking more "trauma" and "damage" if the dispute goes to trial.

District Court Judge Ken Barlow told the former Peregian Springs State School (PSSS) parent and teacher's aide in court on Wednesday that they should "get on with their lives" and leave "this unfortunate dispute behind them".

Parent Mark Anthony Wilson sued former teacher's aide Deanna Charles and principal Gwendolyn Sands, on January 18 last year, claiming a total of $600,000 in damages.

 

Mr Wilson argues Deanna Charles, pictured, called him a paedophile to other parents at school.
Mr Wilson argues Deanna Charles, pictured, called him a paedophile to other parents at school.

He has filed five versions of his claim, and Ms Charles last month filed a cross-claim against Mr Wilson, which Mr Wilson argued should be struck out.

Mr Wilson argues Ms Charles called him a paedophile to other parents at school, Ms Charles denies this but says Mr Wilson made "inappropriate comments" saying her young daughter has "large buttocks" during a barbecue at Mr Wilson's home in 2017, and that she overheard Mr Wilson tell her six-year old daughter in 2018 that if his daughter was "a good girl she will get to have a naked shower with me later".

Sunshine Coast dad sues teacher's aide, school over allegations he 'could not be trusted around children'.

Ms Sands and the Education Department were not officially taking part of Wednesday's pre-trial hearing where Judge Barlow gave Ms Charles the green light to file a cross-claim against Mr Wilson, alleging he defamed her to her employer and to the Coolum Beach police station when he complained Ms Charles was stalking him and asked police to have Ms Charles charged with criminal defamation.

 

Gwendolyn Sands principal of Peregian Springs State School.
Gwendolyn Sands principal of Peregian Springs State School.

 

On Wednesday Judge Barlow told lawyers for Ms Charles and Mr Wilson that "the time, the costs, the trauma of the proceeding and the publicity" of the case continuing, especially to trial "are likely to cause much more damage to all of the parties" than if any side were to succeed.

"To my mind this case cries out for mediation … it has become already, as complicated, lengthy, acrimonious, time consuming, and expensive as remaining if not most actions in defamation to come. There's no doubt already that it has had substantially adverse affects on all the parties to it," Judge Barlow said.

The court heard that Mr Wilson, Ms Charles and principal Gwendolyn Sands, had agreed to mediation set for November 22, but this was later aborted when Ms Charles withdrew.

Ms Charles claimed she withdrew because Mr Wilson said he may need to call Ms Charles' young daughter as a witness at trial.

Ms Charles denies the claims, and instead points the finger at her former friend, and school parent Kelly Molloy.
Ms Charles denies the claims, and instead points the finger at her former friend, and school parent Kelly Molloy.

Mr Wilson alleges that Ms Charles - a former friend who came to his daughters' birthday party in 2017 - defamed him seven times in 2018 either in things she said to others or in written messages exchanged on Facebook Messenger. He also alleges she defamed him by showing school parents a "concerns notice" he sent to her in September. He is suing her for $300,000.

Mr Wilson also alleges principal, Ms Sands, defamed him in June or July 2018 by telling nine teachers or senior school staff: "Deanna Charles has been saying to people that Mark Wilson is a paedophile".

Ms Charles denies the claims, and instead points the finger at her former friend, and school parent Kelly Molloy, who she claims told her during a "play-date" for their kids, that Mr Wilson was "grooming" a child.

Ms Charles claims she can't be held liable for the Messenger messages, because they were private and were leaked to Mr Wilson by Ms Molloy, who she is claiming against.

Ms Charles, Ms Sands and the department have all denied the claims, arguing Mr Wilson has spread the ugly rumours himself by repeating claims that he had been labelled a paedophile to several school parents and staff.

The case is due to go to mediation before Lee Nevison on April 3.



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