Lloyd Rayney’s defamation case against justice campaigner Estelle Blackburn has been given the green light to proceed after the journalist and author failed to have the case thrown out on the basis it was untenable.
Lawyers for Ms Blackburn, her editor and her publisher Pan Macmillan had tried to fend off the lawsuit in a strike-out application last week, claiming that allegations in a chapter in her book “Mad, Bad and Mysterious: Murder, Rape and Pillage in Australia” could not be seen to have imputed the one-time barrister had been involved in his wife’s death.
Their lawyer, barrister Robert Anderson, suggested the chapter “The bootscooter who did not make it home: the murder of Corryn Rayney” had included material favourable to Mr Rayney and which “pointed away” from any involvement in Mrs Rayney’s death. Mr Anderson also suggested the chapter had to be read in context with the rest of the book including the introduction.
Mr Rayney’s lawyer Martin Bennett argued that the chapter should be considered in isolation as that was how ordinary readers could approach the book.
Mr Bennett also pointed to photo captions that stated “uncomfortable in the spotlight” underneath an image of Mr Rayney and “successful in law, unhappy in marriage” under Mrs Rayney’s photo, and the a suggestion in the book that the soured marriage had hit “crisis point” the night Mrs Rayney was last seen alive.
Mr Rayney was acquitted of killing his estranged wife, who was found buried in Kings Park days after she was last seen alive at a bootscooting class. The verdict was upheld by the Court of Appeal.
Justice James Edelman yesterday agreed with Ms Blackburn’s lawyer that the allegedly defamatory chapter should be read in context with the other parts of the book.
But he went on to rule in his reserved decision that Mr Rayney’s case was not so untenable that it should be struck out, and the alleged defamatory imputations were not incapable of being conveyed.
The ruling means Mr Rayney’s defamation lawsuit may proceed to trial.