An Indigenous woman has been ordered to pay the legal costs of three QUT students after a failed racial vilification case.
Cynthia Prior, a university administrative officer, took legal action against Alex Wood, Jackson Powell and Calum Thwaites after claiming the men vilified her after she asked one of them to leave a computer lab reserved for Indigenous students.
The offending Facebook posts included comments such as “QUT fighting segregation with segregation?” and “ITT niggers”, although the alleged author of the latter post disputed he wrote it.
Ms Prior had sought $250,000 in damages from the trio and other parties including QUT, but the Federal Circuit Court threw out the case against the three students last month, ruling the case had “no reasonable prospect of success”.
Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for someone to do an act that is reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race or ethnicity.
Ms Prior returned to court on Friday to argue she should not have to pay the men’s legal costs, citing reasons including “fairness” and the litigation being in the public interest.
But Judge Michael Jarrett rejected her arguments, finding there were no special circumstances to exempt her from paying costs.
Compensation could exceed $100,000: lawyer.
One of the students also sought costs from Ms Prior’s solicitor, arguing she should not have helped bring a “hopeless case” to court, but that claim was rejected.
The dollar figure Ms Prior must pay is yet to be determined, but one of the men’s barristers, Tony Morris QC, estimated it would exceed $100,000.
The court also set aside a subpoena ordering Facebook to reveal the author the “ITT niggers” post.
Ms Prior will return to court next week to appeal against the striking out of her claim against the three students.
Coalition MPs had previously called for the words “insult” and “offend” to be removed from Section 18C section of the act, arguing that they impede free speech.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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