Alan Jones guilty of defaming Wagner family, ordered to pay $3.7M

By @chelean on
Alan Jones was ordered to pay $3.7 million after he was found guilty of defamation on Sep. 12, 2018.
Alan Jones was ordered to pay $3.7 million after he was found guilty of defamation on Sep. 12, 2018. YouTube/2GB 873

Radio jock Alan Jones has been found guilty of defaming the Wagner family in a series of broadcasts between 2014 and 2015. On Wednesday, the Brisbane Supreme Court ordered Jones and two radio stations to pay $3.7 million for 27 broadcasts conveying “extremely serious and the gravest kind” defamatory allegations.

The court found that Jones, Harbour Radio and 4BC defamed the prominent Wagner family with a series of allegations that included claims that the family were responsible for the deaths of 12 people in the 2011 Grantham floods. They also made unfounded claims that the Wagners tried to persuade Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to dismiss any suggestion that they tried to cover up the deaths as a conspiracy theory.

Wagner brothers John, Denis, Neill and Joe had sought $1.2 million each from Jones, Harbour Radio, 4BC and journalist Nick Cater. The complaints against Carter have been previously dismissed.

Brisbane Supreme Court Justice Peter Flanagan said the defendants failed to establish any defence to the defamatory comments they had made. The “extremely serious and of the gravest kind” defamation also had harmful effects on the Wagners.

“Prior to the publication of the defamatory broadcasts, each plaintiff enjoyed an excellent reputation for honesty and integrity, both in business and community circles,” the judge wrote. “The publication of the defamatory broadcasts was very extensive.

“The defamatory broadcasts have caused each of the plaintiffs to suffer profound personal hurt and harm to their reputations, which includes their business reputations.”

Justice Flanagan also dismissed Joyce’s defence that he did not hate the Wagners, citing a 2014 email exchange he had with Qantas chief Alan Joyce. In the email, Jones expressed his disgust to Joyce when the airline had agreed to fly into the Wagner-built Wellcamp Airport in Toowoomba.

Outside the court, Denis Wagner said the family had been constantly attacked by Jones for years, forcing them to take a stand against Jones’ “abhorrent, vicious and deceitful, spiteful behaviour.”

“Until we commenced this action, Mr Jones’ malicious attacks on our character and that of our family were unrelenting,” he said. “The comments by Alan Jones have been described by the judge as unjustifiable.”

Jones and the radio stations were told to pay the family $3.4 million in damages plus $350,000 in interest. The payout is currently the highest ever made for defamation. It beats the previous record of $2.6 million, which was awarded to Perth barrister Lloyd Rayney last year after police defamed him by calling him the “prime” and “only” suspect in his wife’s murder.