SYDNEY (Reuters) - A Sydney paparazzo lost a defamation case on Wednesday against an Australian newspaper that said he wanted to “wreak havoc” on actress Nicole Kidman’s private life with the court agreeing he was a “cowboy.”
The New South Wales state Supreme Court ruled the article saying photographer Jamie Fawcett was a “cowboy” who once dubbed himself the “Prince of Paparazzi” and who was determined “to wreak havoc on Kidman’s private life,” was not defamatory.
During the hearing, Kidman told the court that Fawcett chased her car across Sydney in 2005 at speeds which made her crouch on the back seat, tearful and frightened of crashing.
The Hollywood star said Fawcett’s car and another vehicle drove “dangerously, mounting concrete traffic barriers and driving through red traffic lights in the pursuit.”
”I was absolutely terrified and was thinking, “I hope I don’t die like this’,” Kidman told the court. “When I got out of the car, I was shaking, my heart was pounding.”
Fawcett denied the car chase claims, but Supreme Court Judge Carolyn Simpson said Kidman’s description was accurate.
“He is a man who makes his living from taking and selling candid photographs ... of famous people; he had made a goal of obtaining photographs of Ms Kidman; he had waited all day, unrewarded, for a photograph of her,” said Simpson.
“He was clearly motivated to obtain such a photograph, and he recognized that his remaining opportunities on that evening were very limited indeed,” she said.
“The evidence amply demonstrates that Mr Fawcett’s conduct was ‘intrusive’ and ‘threatening’.”
Judge Simpson also ruled that Fawcett had placed a listening device under a water meter outside Kidman’s home on Sydney Harbour early on the day of the car chase.
Fawcett, however, said he found the device, picked it up and returned it to the meter.
Simpson said “his version is implausible and I reject it,” adding as a photographer he should have photographed the device and as a journalist reported it, but he did neither.
The judge said Fawcett had on other occasions pursued Kidman for photographs. He traveled to Tahiti where Kidman and husband Keith Urban were honeymooning, hired a yacht and sailed into a lagoon and photographed the star.
Simpson ruled the newspaper article’s claim that Fawcett intended to wreak havoc on Kidman’s private life was “substantially true,” citing “Fawcett’s belief that celebrities in general, and Ms Kidman in particular, had no right to any expectation of privacy while in Australia.”
The judge said she had to consider Fawcett’s character and behavior in ruling on the defamation case. She found the description that Fawcett was a “cowboy, that is a recklessly irresponsible photojournalist” was justified.
“It is very disappointing, it is not the outcome I wanted,” Fawcett told reporters outside the court in Sydney.