An indigenous man wrongly identified by the Seven Network as the man arrested for the alleged kidnapping of four-year-old Cleo Smith has launched libel proceedings against the media company in the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
Terrance Flowers, a 27-year-old Nyamal living in Karratha who uses his mother Kelly’s last name on Facebook, was mistakenly identified by 7News on November 3 in broadcasts, an online article, a tweet and a Facebook post as the suspect in the case.
In fact, 36-year-old Carnarvon man Terence Darrell Kelly, whose first name is spelled differently, was arrested by WA police and charged the day after two offenses, including kidnapping, the attracting or detaining a child by force or fraudulently. under 16.
Seven was alerted to the error on the day of publication and posted an apology online that evening. He later apologized on the air.
“Earlier Wednesday [November 3] 7News falsely showed footage of a man who was incorrectly labeled as the person under arrest for Cleo Smith’s disappearance, âthe apology said online.
“These were removed quickly, but 7News apologizes for the error.”
Seven had taken images of Mr Flowers’ Facebook page to spread the stories and incorrect social media posts.
Cleo Smith was reunited with her family on November 3 after WA police located her alone in a house in the coastal town of Carnarvon in the early hours of the morning.
She had been missing for 18 days after disappearing from her tent at a popular campsite where she was staying with her parents and younger sister.
Mr Flowers’ lawyers were able to file the case faster in Western Australia than in many other parts of the country, including New South Wales and Victoria.
WA has yet to enact nationally agreed changes to defamation laws that require a notice of concern in a specific form to be sent to a potential defendant before a lawsuit can be brought in court.
Had these changes been enacted, Seven would have had 28 days from the date of receipt of the notice to respond with an offer of redress. This offer is then open for acceptance for at least 28 days.
Mr. Flowers is represented by a team of attorneys in Sydney, including attorneys Sue Chrysanthou SC and Louise Goodchild, and Stewart O’Connell, senior counsel at O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors.
“Mr. Terrance Flowers today filed a statement with the Supreme Court of Western Australia against Channel Seven,” the firm said in a statement earlier.
The firm said Mr Flowers had been “falsely accused by Seven, on television, Facebook, Twitter and the Seven website, of being involved in the kidnapping of Cleo Smith, a four-year-old girl. He has nothing to do with it and has never been a suspect in the case.
âMr. Flowers recently became a father and like everyone in Australia, and particularly being a parent himself, he hoped for Cleo’s safe return. To be identified as responsible for her abduction and disappearance was extremely distressing. for him and his family.
âIt is of great concern to Mr. Flowers and his family that a large media company is carrying out a story of this magnitude without being absolutely certain of its accuracy. The effect of this substantial error has been devastating.
âThe Seven Network publications led Mr. Flowers to be the subject of hatred in the country and around the world and led to him being hospitalized with a severe panic attack.
“As the matter is now in court, Mr. Flowers will not be making any further comment and is asking that his family’s privacy be respected in order for this process to run smoothly.”