Yesterday a NSW Supreme Court jury found that Sydney business identity Abe Saffron had been defamed by the clues and solution to a crossword puzzle published by the Gold Coast Bulletin over two days in January last year.
Saffron's lawyer Clive Evatt,told the jury that defamatory statements could take many forms: "oral, written, cartoons, the cinema, burning an effigy, statues, waxworks... this one is a crossword puzzle."
According to the evidence clue number three down read: "Sydney underworld figure, nicknamed Mr Sin (3,7)."
The following day, the solution to that brain teaser was published: "Abe Saffron." The two imputations pleaded came straight from the clues:
(a) The plaintiff is a Sydney underworld figure
(b) The plaintiff is nicknamed "Mr Sin"
Evatt said that people are more likely to believe defamatory statements; "They can make a person's bad reputation even worse." He said that it was "a serious matter" to describe someone as Mr Sin, because it says "his activities are of an amoral nature."
The jury didn't entirely agree. It found that being called Mr Sin was not defamatory, but to be described as a Sydney underworld figure is.... The damages are yet to be decided.
So who is this guy anyway? After a quick search on the internet I found out that he has been dubbed Mr Sin because his behaviour has been consistently bad over many years; he has an unsavoury reputation; was convicted of tax evasion over a 13-year period, served 16 months imprisonment, and there have been adverse findings against him by various Royal Commissions and inquiries since 1951. So what type of reputation he is trying to protect is anyone's guess. Or maybe that's what his lawyer meant by "making a bad reputation, worse"
But it got me thinking about other Crossword Clues we could have."Disgraced Former Businessman", "Infamous Sporting Star", "Colourful Sydney Racing Identity" or "Aging Rocker". Try googling any of those...
Any other suggestions?