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Defamation case costs

Published: 3 March 2018

Auckland Council has this week released costs relating to defamation proceedings lodged by Penny Bright against Auckland Council Chief Executive Stephen Town.

Penny Bright initiated defamation proceedings against Auckland Council Chief Executive Stephen Town in relation to comments about her made in an October 2014 press statement concerning her unpaid rates.

In February 2017 the High Court at Auckland entered summary judgment in favour of Mr Town, dismissing the entire proceedings.

The legal costs in defence of the defamation proceedings and related matters was $207,133.62, covering a period of approximately two and a half years, from the initial demand for a retraction, apology and damages, to the commencement of proceedings, and their ultimate dismissal by the High Court. Ms Bright’s continued unsuccessful attempt to argue that Mr Town was improperly motivated against her formed the bulk of the legal costs.

The costs arose out of the need for Mr Town to defend himself against the serious allegations made against him in the proceedings. Defamation is a specialised area of law, and the council was required to appoint expert external legal support to defend Mr Town. 

The statements were made by Mr Town in his official capacity.  As with any other staff member in similar circumstances, it was appropriate that his defence was provided by the council.