Wednesday, September 12, 2012
for Ruth Harley....yet another letter!
150 William St.
Woolloomooloo 2011 13th Sept. 2012
On 9th May you circulated to members of the Screen Australia Board a draft letter in which you claimed that I had intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence. In so doing not only did you knowingly and deliberately lie to the Board but you defamed me.
The following day, with the blessing of the Screen Australia Board, you banned me from having any further dealings with Screen Australia. In so doing you were aware, as was the Board that ratified your decision, that being banned by Screen Australia places a huge obstacle in the path of a filmmaker. Such a ban effectively destroys a filmmaker’s career as he or she is dependent on Screen Australia through the ‘Producer’s Offset’.
It is hard to imagine, from the perspective of a non-lawyer such as myself, a clearer example of defamation and its impact on the person so defamed.
On 11th May I asked you to provide evidence in support of your allegation that I had harassed, intimidated and placed members of your staff at risk with my correspondence. You refused to do so. You have refused all subsequent requests to release the correspondence or to identify when it was sent and in what manner – email or letter. You have refused my Freedom of Information request to be provided with copies of the allegedly intimidating correspondence – getting your FOI officer to provide me, instead, with copies of most of the correspondence I have sent to Screen Australia this past three years in relation to fifteen or so different submissions I have made. This cynical exercise is a breach of the spirit of FOI legislation – just a ploy you employ to keep secret the fact that correspondence of the kind you describe does not exist. You have also refused my suggestion that the dispute between myself and Screen Australia be placed in the hands of a Conciliator who would look at the correspondence and make an independent judgment of it.
It is in the context of ‘intimidating correspondence’ that my Statement of Claim in the Supreme Court of NSW must be understood. Obtaining copies of this correspondence is the only way that I can prove my innocence of the offense that has led to my being banned. Had I received copies of the correspondence at any time after lodging my Statement of Claim and had I received, as I have requested many times, an apology for having been banned on the basis of a lie, I would have dropped my Statement of Claim as your defamatory allegations would have been revealed for what they were (lies) and my reputation amongst Screen Australia Board colleagues restored. However, given that no apology has been forthcoming and given that you refuse to reveal the evidence upon which you have banned me and, in the process, defamed me, I will proceed with my action.
Your legal counsel has made it clear in his own Statement of Claim, made on your behalf, that he will ask the Court to strike out my Statement of Claim as frivolous. The logic of his argument boils down to this:
Mr Ricketson is only using the Supreme Court to obtain copies of the letters he believes will prove his innocence of the charges of intimidation and placing at risk members of Screen Australia staff. It is not the Supreme Court’s role, in a Common Law (defamation) matter such as this to provide Mr Ricketson with correspondence, so not only should his Statement of Claim be struck out but Mr Ricketson should also pay Screen Australia’s legal costs.
This paraphrasing may leave out some legal subtleties but it is an accurate description of the legal tactic you are employing as Chief Executive to prevent me from obtaining copies of the allegedly intimidating correspondence. And it may work! Not because you have not defamed me but because, when all is said and done, I have not (as a non-lawyer) articulated my Statement of Claim with the clarity I would have if I were a lawyer.
I will argue in court that my persistent attempts to acquire copies of the relevant correspondence (and hence save the time and energy of the Supreme Court) is not in conflict with my desire to have my name cleared of the defamatory charges laid against me. I will continue to advocate for a Conciliator to be brought in also to adjudicate this dispute. If this were to occur in the next week or so it would be unnecessary to proceed to the Supreme Court as a Conciliator could, in the course of a week, read the relevant correspondence and make a determination that both Screen Australia and I would be obliged to abide by. He or she would decide that my being banned was appropriate or not based on the correspondence itself and not merely on your allegation that it exists.
If the Court does not accede to your counsel’s request to have my Statement of Claim stuck out, if the matter proceeds, Screen Australia will be obliged to defend its actions by producing the allegedly intimidating correspondence. This will prove to be very embarrassing to you (to say the least!) since there is not one letter, not one email, not one paragraph, sentence or even a phrase in what I have written that is intimidating or which places any member of your staff at risk. You know this, as does the Screen Australia Board. This is why you will do whatever you feel you have to do to prevent any independent party from reading the correspondence – hence the Statement of Claim you lodged in the Supreme Court yesterday.
Just as you will do whatever you need to do to prevent anyone from ever seeing the relevant correspondence, so too will I do everything I can to see that is released or identified so that members of the Screen Australia Board and my fellow filmmakers can decide for themselves who is playing fast and loose with the truth – you or me.