Your selected location:
  1. Home
  2. /
  3. HHG Articles
  4. /
  5. Shaming the Defamer: The Real Life Legal Consequences of Online Defamation
11 Oct 2016


This week, the Supreme Court of Western Australia held Mr Terence John McLernon accountable for his online actions as a ‘keyboard warrior’ and awarded a record $700,000 of damages for defamatory internet posts. 

The decision of Douglas v McLernon [No 4] [2016] WASC 320 demonstrates the very real life consequences of ‘trolling’ behaviour, and that the time tested legal action of defamation can be used to provide relief in the modern digital age.

Justice Kenneth Martin used his decision to dispel

“a perception in some members of the community that the laws of defamation do not apply to publications made over the internet … no matter how defamatory or scandalous the material may be”.

Mr McLernon represented himself in the proceedings that began in 2012 and Justice Martin noted that the Plaintiffs pursued justice despite knowing they were unlikely to recover much in the way of damages (or even legal costs) due to Mr McLernon’s “uncertain” and “problematic” financial position.

As is often the case, bringing this defamation suit would have cost the plaintiffs a considerable amount of money in legal fees and time.  The point of such a law suit is not as much to get adequate compensation for reputational damage as it is about setting the record straight.  A judgment such as this one amounts to a public declaration that whatever was written was entirely wrong and maliciously published.

The decision not only publicly announces Mr McLernon to be a defamer, but also contains highly critical assessments of his character in general.

Justice Martin described Mr McLernon as unrepentant, unapologetic, “erratic”, “defiant, hostile and unpredictable”.  Mr McLernon claimed memory loss in relation to most questions during the trial, as well as stating to the Court that he had no memory of preparing, signing or lodging multiple documents outlining his various and shifting defences of the action.

Justice Martin said Mr McLernon’s responses;

“…whilst under cross-examination were, on my assessment, false, unbelievable and unreliable. At times, as the transcript shows, they bordered on the bizarre.”

Justice Martin granted a permanent injunction on Mr McLernon’s ability to ever again post similar defamatory information about any of the plaintiffs because without such an injunction he considered Mr McLernon was a ‘strong risk’ to reoffend.  If Mr McLernon does breach this injunction he could be found to be in contempt of Court and would face prison time.

The significant award of not only damages, but also aggravated damages and costs on an ‘indemnity basis’ is not the norm in these kind of cases.  Justice Martin stated the record award is;

“an indication of the Court’s displeasure at [Mr McLernon’s] conduct in his defences of this litigation.”

The judgment serves as a warning to trolls and can also provide comfort to victims of cyber-harassment.  The decision pierces the perceived shield some trolls believe their screen to be.  It demonstrates that accountability and vindication through the Courts is available to any who suffer real life harm in cyberspace.

For more information about taking legal action against persons harassing you or your business online please see our related article. HHG regularly advises and acts for both victims of defamation and those defending defamation claims against them.


This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.



*This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. Please consult one of our experienced Legal Team for specific advice relevant to your situation.

Supporting Western Australians for more than 100 years

"Always fast and thorough service. Thank you"

Sitka Pil

My circumstances at the time I made contact with HHG were dire following my argument being rejected by two no win no fee firms. Following my initial meeting with HHG's employment law team I was left feeling extremely positive by the response and concern shown by HHG in regards to their support of my argument along with their preparedness to pursue an outcome on my behalf.

I accept the fact that nobody really wins in these cases (mental health/ workplace) however the end result was what would be considered most favourable and far in excess of what would have been achieved had I not sought the advice from HHG.

I have no hesitation in recommending HHG to anyone caught up in the messy circumstances I found myself in at the time.

Great advice and five-star commitment to their client!!"

Nathan Lynch

"Thank you for such great assistance with the transaction of Flying Domestics on behalf of Lorna Good. It has been such a pleasure to work with the HHG Legal Group and I look forward to working with you in the future."

Jim Goodwin

"Simon Creek and his team were at all times empathic, professional and confident.  My matter needed to be addressed within a pressing time frame, and their availability at short notice and contact after hours was much appreciated.  It caused me considerable stress, but having such a thoroughly reliable and competent team to call on helped me to feel in control. Although I hope not to need their services again in future, I would be confident in doing so!"

Dr Lana Bell

"A good outcome is what we can expect.  A great outcome is a sign of a company which does the very best for their clients. A very big thank you to Daniel Morris for showing empathy towards my small and much needed legal action.

To HHG Legal Group, thank you for a great outcome.  I would recommend your company to anyone seeking legal services."

Jan Atkinson

"Your support this morning was amazingly kind, not to mention your totally reassuring competence, knowledge and wisdom that you used on my behalf.  It was extremely reassuring to have your knowledgeable support, and I particularly appreciated your real and obvious kindness to me. It means so much at a very difficult time. I'm so grateful to you."

Family Law Client

"Janene was very professional and we established a good rapport quickly. The subject of death and wills can be quite confronting to deal with, however, Janene's approach was soft and accommodating."

Lynette Livesey

"A big thank you to HHG for their professional service, continued support, and wide range of legal knowledge. Our clients have given us nothing but kind words regarding HHG Legal Group and so we have no hesitation in referring and recommending Simon Creek and HHG Legal Group for their outstanding services and legal expertise."

Nigel Plowman, Director at McKinley Plowman & Associates

"Simon is a friendly and practical legal advisor. I have received great feedback from the clients I have referred to him and his team at HHG Legal Group."

Richard Beal, Director at BDO

"Over the last few years, I have been impressed by Simon’s legal ability, management skills, entrepreneurial spirit, personal integrity and people skills. He appears to be that rare breed of lawyer – both knowledgeable and commercial."

Michael Malone, Founder of iiNet

"Our family has been a client of HHG Legal Group over many years.  Business has included drawing up of wills for three generations and preparing of probate for my father in law. I would have no hesitation in recommending HHG Legal Group to anyone requiring such services."

Bernice Climie

"You should be congratulated for the manner in which your staff address clients and we found our dealings with your company, once again a very pleasant experience and we would like to truly thank you for your efforts."

Steve Harvey and Jane Powell

"HHG Legal were absolutely fantastic. Extremely responsive and brought calm to our chaotic family situation through their knowledge and caring attitude. Extremely professional from our very first contact with them and they expertly guided our family though the required legal process over almost a 12 month period."

Amanda Williamson

"Fantastic team! They really care about their client. Tim Colcutt is a 'go that extra mile' guy who gives his client his all. I can't recommend HHG and Tim enough."

Kerry Samson

"I had a fantastic lawyer in Matthew Lilly. He helped me out a great deal with good, sound advice in a friendly, professional manner. First class, thanks Matthew"

Graeme Hammond

"Marine Plant Systems has been working with HHG Legal Group for a few years now and they continually provide first-class service. Their professional advice has been invaluable to our company."

Carolin Grimm - Marine Plant Systems

"We were kept up to date at all times. Pricing was always updated over the time period so we remained "in budget". Personal access to someone whenever I had questions. All in all a great experience without too much fuss."

Rosslyn Tasker - COO AltusQ Pty Ltd

"Good service you can count on."

Miles Lee

"HHG Legal Group has provided outstanding support as I have taken the journey of buying a business, their professionalism is beyond reproach. Their assistance throughout the Due Diligence process has been invaluable, I would fully recommend them."

Mark Armitage

"Very friendly and efficient service - what a pleasure working with Matthew."

Jacques Taylor

"I highly recommend Daniel from HHG Lawyer in Mandurah. When dealing with a complicated legal property matter recently I was extremely impressed by Daniel's honesty and integrity and the legal advice I received. I am very happy with the service from HHG Legal."

Tony Walker

Select your location:

Please select your nearest office location so we can show you the most relevant information.