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A woman has been ordered to pay $12,500 to her estranged husband after she defamed him on Facebook by accusing him of subjecting her to years of abuse.
In the latest of a growing number of cases over defamatory comments on social media, school teacher Miro Dabrowski sued his estranged wife, Robyn Greeuw, over a December 2012 Facebook post.
The post, which remained on her Facebook page for about six weeks, said she had “separated from Miro Dabrowski after 18 years of suffering domestic violence and abuse”.
Ms Greeuw, who did not have legal representation at the trial, defended the case by arguing that the post was true.
West Australian District Court Judge Michael Bowden ruled in Mr Dabrowski’s favour, saying Ms Greeuw had not proved the comments were true. However, he also found that parts of Mr Dabrowski’s evidence “lacked credibility”.
The court was shown letters from 2010 in which Mr Dabrowski apologised for “spoiling” a holiday.
“I guess I have a right to freak out, panic or whatever I do when things get on top of me but I don’t have the right to make my family and you suffer because of it,” he wrote.
“I am quite ashamed of taking you and life for granted and having no-one or nothing or no other means to blow off instead of making my loved ones suffer my problems.”
In another letter, he wrote of events that caused “panic (and some hype and anger) during week two of the holidays” and said he “came across badly” but was “good intentioned”.
Judge Bowden said Mr Dabrowski claimed the letters referred only to his “internal state of mind and not any outward display of anger” but his “evidence in this regard lacked credibility”.
Mr Dabrowski called several witnesses during the 10-day trial, including a teacher he started dating in mid-2012.
The court heard that after the pair went on a date on December 23 that year, the woman logged onto Facebook “to see what his ex-wife looked like”.
“She opened Ms Greeuw’s Facebook page and saw the disputed post which left her shocked, horrified, confused and upset,” Judge Bowden said.
She “discontinued the relationship” for about 10 months, but the pair remained on friendly terms and resumed dating in October 2013.
Judge Bowden said “domestic violence and abuse by its very nature usually [occurs] in the matrimonial home and in the absence of independent witnesses” and it was possible to make defamation findings “solely on the evidence of one partner against the other”.
However, he said that in this case Ms Greeuw was not a credible witness and was “prepared to say or write whatever she thinks will suit her case”. At best, she had established there was an incident during a holiday in 2010 which led Mr Dabrowski to apologise.
He said he had “no doubt that the post caused Mr Dabrowski personal distress, humiliation and hurt and harm to his reputation and it did cause people to ‘look at him twice’ and be more reserved about their contact with him”.
“He is an experienced educator and is entitled to public vindication,” Judge Bowden said.
Taking into account the fact that the comments were read by a limited audience and the post was deleted after about six weeks, he ordered Ms Greeuw to pay Mr Dabrowski $12,500 plus interest and costs.
The story Facebook defamation: man awarded $12.5K after estranged wife’s ‘domestic violence’ post first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.