Xavier La Canna
The Heraldsun, 21 October 2006
Tasmanian timber company Gunns must pay legal costs for a group of environmentalists it tried to sue for millions of dollars, a Victorian judge has ruled.
Supreme Court Justice Bernard Bongiorno yesterday ruled that Gunns must pay the costs, which relate to an unsuccessful claim that 20 environmentalists took part in conspiracies against the company.
Greg Ogle, the legal coordinator for the Wilderness Society, one of the defendants, said the costs would probably amount to more than $1 million.
But Mr Ogle said it was unlikely the environmentalists would be given the money for at least one year, while the exact amount was decided.
Gunns had tried to sue the 20 defendants, who included Greens Senator Bob Brown and Tasmanian Greens leader Peg Putt, for almost $7 million.
Since December 2004 the company has filed three separate statements of claim, which have all been thrown out of court.
In August, Justice Bongiorno ruled three of the defendants should be given a total of nearly $87,000, which related to the first statement of claim.
Yesterday's ruling relates to the third statement of claim Gunns made against the environmentalists.
Wilderness Society spokeswoman Virginia Young welcomed the ruling but said it would not cover the organisation's total costs.
The costs will include the expense of reading and responding to the statement of claim, as well as researching and formulating the legal arguments, and the costs of the three-day hearing in August last year, the society said in a statement.
Justice Bongiorno also gave Gunns until November 2 to seek leave to file a fourth statement of claim in relation to the alleged conspiracies against the company.