Peter Coggins is a Brisbane-based Senior Associate at Shine Lawyers.
Belle Gibson is a woman who both shocked and polarised Australians.
On one side she was, by her own admission, mentally disturbed evoking public sympathy as we saw her struggles as a pathological liar, using a mental illness to achieve stardom and ‘success’. On the other side, she was a villain, capitalising on the pain and desperation of cancer sufferers around the country.
Her false representations were two-fold.
- She falsely claimed she had a brain tumour and was able to cure it with natural remedies
- and she claimed that her company would donate significant sums to charities from the sales of her cookbooks and apps.
Justice Mortimer delivered a compassionate judgement on Wednesday morning, stating that it was unreasonable to rule out the possibility that Belle may have, at the start of her health journey, had genuine concerns for her health and a cancer diagnosis.
She went on to say that not all of us humans are ‘rational and reasonable all of the time.” No truer statement has been said, but what happens when that irrationality or unreasonableness adversely impacts the lives of people other than ourselves?
It’s interesting to note that while her trial has made global news, her judgement in the court is far less draconian than the public’s judgment and lynching of her character.
What the court be looking at when the judgement is handed down
The disgraced health blogger is facing a million dollar fine for her misleading conduct.
The fines to be imposed by the Court relate to the false statements of her company concerning its donations to charity. She could be fined personally up to $220,000 and her company, although in liquidation, could be fined close to $1.1m.
It’s difficult to say what fines the court may impose but she hasn’t helped herself by not turning up to court for the trial.
The court did indicate in its judgement that some sympathy might be given if it can be shown she was delusional at one point in relation to her illness.
If you’ve had the disease in your life, it’s easy to understand how mentally consuming the fight can be.
Most of us could forgive irrationality or mental disturbance, but could the public give her another chance at selling us another product?