Esther Rockett (centre) leaves Sydney Supreme Court with solicitor Stewart O'Connell and barrister Tom Molomby after the final hearing in the defamation case brought against her by Universal Medicine leader Serge Benhayon in December.
Esther Rockett (centre) leaves Sydney Supreme Court with solicitor Stewart O'Connell and barrister Tom Molomby after the final hearing in the defamation case brought against her by Universal Medicine leader Serge Benhayon in December. Liana Turner

Court evidence may be enough for Universal Medicine action

REGULATORY bodies may not need extra documents to investigate Universal Medicine, a court has heard.

Blogger Esther Rockett, who was unsuccessfully sued for defamation by Goonellabah-based Universal Medicine leader Serge Benhayon, had applied to use documents discovered in the proceedings, but not admitted to evidence, to bring certain aspects of the organisation to the attention of regulatory bodies.

In the trial, the jury found to be true the statements that Mr Benhayon is "the leader of a socially harmful cult", "dishonest" and a "charlatan", among other things.

Justice Julia Lonergan last week dismissed this application.

In handing down her judgment, Justice Lonergan said she agreed with submissions from Mr Benahayon's barrister, Nicholas Olson, that documents Ms Rockett was already permitted to use may be enough for this purpose.

"There is no doubt the defendant seeks to ... use the material for the collateral purpose of making complaints to regulatory authorities about the plaintiff and Universal Medicine as well as lobbying for legislative action," Justice Lonergan said.

"These are no doubt worthy and important matters, however it is correct, as Mr Olson submitted, that the defendant, as a private individual, has no special standing to make such complaints.

"There is no recognisable legal interest of hers involved in the proposed uses.

"I... accept the submission that the material admitted into evidence is easily sufficient to prompt and/or pursue regulatory authorities to investigate and if appropriate, take action against the activities of the plaintiff and Universal Medicine."

Ms Rockett's barrister, Tom Molomby, listed four categories of documents in the application.

This included submissions made by Universal Medicine to Members of Parliament and statutory bodies, attendance records of UM workshops, recordings of Esoteric Developer's Group sessions and healing workshops and UM training manuals.

These had been found during the discovery portion of proceedings, but as they had not been tendered as evidence, the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules prohibit their use without the permission of the court.

In a hearing in December, Mr Molomby told Justice Lonergan some of the documents included details about children attending UM sessions, including exorcism sessions.

Justice Lonergan asked why the names of those who attended these sessions should "be made available and deployed by Ms Rockett".

She said Mr Molomby had submitted while his client had "no special standing" for being entitled to use the documents, she was "in an unusual situation" as she had devoted considerable time and research into examining the operations of UM.

Justice Lonergan said "ongoing zealous support, including from health professionals who lack insight into the dangers of Universal Medicine activities, the deceptive conduct engaged in by the plaintiff and Universal Medicine, and the risk that the plaintiff poses to vulnerable people" was cited in support of Ms Rockett's application.

But she said "special circumstances" which were required for a successful application were not established.

"The process of discovery entails a very serious invasion of the privacy and confidentiality of a litigant's affairs, which is only permitted because of the public interest in ensuring that justice is done between the parties," she said.

"Because of this there is an obligation not to use documents obtained through that process for collateral purposes.

"Balancing of interests in obtaining documents by compulsion for legal process must be made with the competing public (and private) interest in the maintenance of privacy."

Justice Lonergan has awarded Ms Rockett costs for the trial on an indemnity basis.

She ordered each party pay its own costs for the application on the use of documents.

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission has confirmed it is "currently undertaking a number of investigations relevant to its jurisdiction".