After two years of unanswered questions and false claims, a federal court judge has found Belle Gibson guilty of breaching consumer laws.
On Wednesday, judge Debbie Mortimer ruled that through her blog, cookbook and app, The Whole Pantry, 25-year-old Gibson had made false statements about her health and the potential power of her products, and engaged in misleading and deceptive behaviour through her claims of donating money to charities.
“Ms Gibson deliberately played on the genuine desire of members of the Australian community to help those less fortunate,” Mortimer said. “Her ‘pitch’ overwhelmingly used groups likely to evoke sympathy because of heir vulnerabilities — young girls, asylum seekers, sick children.”
According to the Herald Sun, Mortimer continued, “She played on the empathy and generosity of the Australian community towards causes that were seen to be deserving.”
Throughout proceedings, which were brought against her by Consumer Affairs Victoria, Gibson failed to attend court and responded to questions via written answers.
The findings come two years after it was revealed that Gibson - who is believed to have made upwards of $420,000 through her businesses - had lied to millions of people about ever having had brain, spleen, uterine, liver or kidney cancers and claiming that adhering to a specific diet had cured her of said cancers.
Gibson also claimed that hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits from the sale of her app and cookbook had been donated to nine charities, but the majority never saw a cent or even came into contact with Gibson.
The court heard profits were spent on an expensive inner-city townhouse lease, a BMW, and overseas holidays of Gibson, her partner and her young son.
On Wednesday Mortimer did, however, concede that Gibson's mental health may have played a part in her actions.
“Not all human beings are rational and reasonable all of the time... It seems to me that, at least in some respects, it might be open to find that Ms Gibson suffered from a series of delusions about her health condition," Mortimer told the court.
The one major allegation Mortimer found Gibson not guilty of was Consumer Affairs Victoria's claim that Gibson knowingly lied about her health.
"Another explanation is that Ms Gibson remained under some kind of delusion that she had cancer," Mortimer said, alluding to the fact that Gibson truly believes in her lies.
"She may have had other psychological or psychiatric issues," Mortimer said.
"I am not persuaded on the evidence she was acting unconscionably."
According to the Herald Sun, Consumer Affairs Victoria now has until 4pm on March 22 to make any further submissions to the court in regards to costs and penalty, the latter of which will be determined at a later date.
Gibson faces a maximum penalty of $1.1 million.