Old article I just received in an e-mail - if it has been up before - my apologies.
Courtenay woman must pay $681,000 in damages
Jeff Rud, Victoria Times Colonist
Published: Friday, January 13, 2006
VICTORIA - A Courtenay woman whose campaign of highly critical e-mails and Internet postings defamed nine teachers, a former school trustee and a parent, has been ordered by the B.C. Supreme Court to pay nearly $700,000 in damages.
Justice Jacqueline Dorgan ordered Sue Halstead to compensate 11 plaintiffs a total of $681,000 after publishing defamatory statements "in the context of a prolonged and sustained campaign of character assassination against each of the plaintiffs.''
The judge, who acknowledged it will be difficult to collect the damages given Halstead's financial circumstances, also ordered Halstead to stop publishing defamatory comments about the plaintiffs online.
"Her conduct was clearly motivated by malice and was oppressive. Ms. Halstead's shockingly vicious attack upon, and her manifestly fictitious account of, each of the plaintiffs' character and conduct is deserving of rebuke ...,'' wrote Dorgan.
"Ms. Halstead's widely published statements are vitriolic and untrue; they are defamatory. Her actions are malicious and cruel. Such publications and actions have absolutely nothing to do with freedom of expression. Ms. Halstead has seriously transgressed the boundaries which prescribe that hallowed right.''
Halstead, a mother whose five children attended public school in Vancouver Island's Comox Valley, has a long history as a volunteer activist with a focus on education and bullying prevention. But Dorgan ruled Halstead defamed educators by sending out mass e-mails and postings in chatrooms in which she "regularly made allegations of teachers' misconduct and allegations that the school board mishandled or covered up the behaviours she referred to."
Halstead also created a website in 2003 that included a page titled B.C.'s Least Wanted, which Dorgan described as a "rogue's gallery" format. It included a display of names and photographs of people whom Halstead contended had "engaged in wrongful conduct within the education system.''
Individual awards ranged from $1,000 to $150,000, awarded to Comox teacher Edmund Newman. The judge also ordered $50,000 in punitive damages to be split between the plaintiffs, seven of whom live on Vancouver Island and two in Prince George.
Halstead, who did not take part in the trial process, was not available for comment Thursday. Her counterclaim against the B.C. Teachers' Federation, which paid the legal costs of the plaintiffs, was dismissed.