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Geoff Murphy 'snake' defamation case has temporary twist

Geoff Murphy.
Geoff Murphy. Sharyn O'Neill ROK201113splan2

MACKAY business owner Michael Barfield's right to freedom of speech temporarily won out in a defamation case in Brisbane District Court Wednesday.

Former director of Rockhampton's JM Kelly Project Builders, Geoff Murphy, has taken business owner Michael Barfield to court, claiming signs on Mr Barfield's trucks have defamed him.

He also applied to the court to intervene and stop Mr Barfield from displaying the signs prior to the trial.

The signs include references to Mr Murphy as a "snake".

But yesterday, District Court Judge Helen Bowskill refused the injunction application.

In her reasons Judge Bowskill said the court should not impede Mr Barfield's right to free speech given she had made a direction that hearings will be held November 14 and 15 to decide the case.

Rather, if Mr Murphy wins the case, he can claim compensation for Mr Barfield defaming him for the whole period of time the signs were displayed.

At an earlier hearing in Brisbane, Mr Murphy's barrister John Peden said there were four signs - two that were identical - that had been displayed on the truck and displayed in areas including Rockhampton, Yeppoon and Mackay.

He said one of the signs said sub-contractors were owed money and included the words "destroying lives" and "yet you enjoy a life of luxury".

He said there would be no defamation case if the signs only referred to the company but he said the signs affected Mr Murphy's reputation.

Mr Peden said this included the words on another sign that said "who is the real snake Geoff?".

"He's turning it into a personal attack on Mr Geoff Murphy," Mr Peden said.

But Mr Barfield's barrister Michael de Waard said the reference to "snake" was related to an article Mr Murphy was quoted in where he said he had decided to "cut the head of the snake off" when he decided to go into liquidation following an expensive court case involving a Gold Coast construction project.

Mr de Waard also said it was true, honest opinion from Mr Barfield.

The barrister said Mr Murphy had essentially been quoted saying he had made arrangements to pay everyone when in fact the company had not.

"What has been said there from Mr Murphy is not in fact what's happening and Mr Barfield has decided to call him out on it," Mr de Waard said.

Topics:  freedom of speech, geoff murphy, jm kelly



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