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John Furlong avoids security order in defamation suit

A B.C. Supreme Court judge denied Laura Robinson's bid to order John Furlong pay a $100,000 deposit to the court, in case the ex-Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics CEO loses his defamation lawsuit.

But Justice G.C. Weatherill also ruled part of Furlong's affidavit inadmissible.

Weatherill dismissed journalist Robinson's application because it met only two parts of the six-point test under the security for legal costs provision of the Libel and Slander Act. Weatherill also decided the application was insufficient to warrant exercising the court's inherent jurisdiction.

Neither Furlong nor Robinson were in court for the Dec. 9 hearing or Dec. 10 reading of the decision.

Furlong opposed the application, claiming he needs the $100,000 after Robinson's Sept. 27, 2012, Georgia Straight-published story damaged his public speaking career. Furlong denied allegations in the story that he physically abused his aboriginal physical education students at a Burns Lake, B.C. Catholic elementary school in 1969 and 1970. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

Said Weatherill in the verbal judgment: "While the defendant (Robinson) has shown the plaintiff (Furlong) does not own real property in B.C., that he has not disclosed his personal financial information and that his available resources are being used to fund this action, such evidence in my view is a far cry from demonstrating on a balance of probabilities that he is not possessed of property sufficient to pay the defendant's costs of litigation if he is unsuccessful at trial."

Weatherill said the Libel and Slander Act's security for costs provision has been tested only twice in court since it was enacted in 1891 and must only be used cautiously, sparingly and in special circumstances.

Weatherill said there is a "genuine issue" whether Robinson defamed Furlong "and, if so, whether the defence raised by the defendant will be made out. The action is neither trivial nor frivolous."

Robinson's lawyer Jeremy Shragge argued during the Dec. 9 hearing that Furlong's choice to drop the lawsuit against the Georgia Straight on Oct. 29 was inconsistent with someone alleging defamation because the story remains published on the newspaper's website. Weatherill said that was not a reason for him to grant the order.

"The plaintiff was well within his right to discontinue his claim against the publisher and focus his resources upon the defendant," he said. "There was nothing egregious in having done so."

Shragge also drew attention to Furlong's reluctance to set a trial date after filing the lawsuit on Nov. 27, 2012. Weatherill did not comment on that in his judgment.

Furlong's lawyer, John Hunter, declined to answer questions from reporters.

Outside court, Shragge said the dismissal of the application was not problematic.

"The fact that we haven't been successful on this motion has no impact on (Robinson's) ability to mount her defence," Shragge told reporters. Robinson has started a fundraising website to pay her legal bills.

When or if the dispute will return to court is unknown. Furlong claims Robinson has a personal vendetta against him and vowed Oct. 28 to "escalate" the action against her. So far, that has not translated into dates for examination for discovery or a trial.

"Mr. Furlong has, as we pointed out in court yesterday, chosen not to set down this case for trial and yet has sworn affidavit evidence saying that he needs this trial to be determined in his favour to be able to rebuild his business," Shragge said.

In court, Weatherill agreed with Shragge that Furlong's affidavit was partly inadmissible. Several paragraphs contained opinions and no evidence. Shragge argued some content was "hearsay and double hearsay."

In her defence filed last January, Robinson pleaded responsible journalism, fair comment and justification. The latter, Shragge explained, involves Robinson's belief that information from her sources is true or substantially true.

Later on Dec. 10, Furlong issued a one-paragraph statement on his website saying that he appreciated the court's decision and he has "no intention of paying (Robinson) a dime and look forward to rebuilding my life and the successful public speaking business I was operating before Laura Robinson began her public campaign against me."

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee. Due to the nature of this story, comments are closed.

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