Well known Melbourne identity Mick Gatto has lost a libel lawsuit against the ABC. The Victoria Supreme Court rejected a claim for compensation.
- Mr Gatto claimed the 2019 ABC article referred to him as “one of Australia’s most violent criminals”.
- The court ruled that the meanings claimed by Mr. Gatto were not recognized
- Judge Andrew Keogh said the ABC was entitled to report on Mr. Gatto as “a current and legitimate subject of public interest”.
Mr Gatto took legal action against the public broadcaster in 2019 after being the subject of an article on the Lawyer X scandal in Melbourne.
Mr Gatto alleged the article described him as a “killer” and “one of Australia’s most violent criminals” – motions that were denied by Supreme Court Justice Andrew Keogh.
Judge Keogh ruled that the meanings claimed by Mr. Gatto were not recognized, stating that it was “neither necessary nor appropriate” to consider awarding damages.
The story in question, written by Sarah Farnsworth and former ABC reporter Nino Bucci, was released in February 2019 and remains on the public broadcaster’s website.
The police witness implicated Gatto in alleged threats
The article was based on a document setting out police allegations about the risks to Nicola Gobbo if her identity were revealed, namely an affidavit from the secret police that contained evidence from Inspector Brooke Hall.
In the 2016 court document, Inspector Hall made a statement that Informer 3838 – now known as the Gangland attorney who became police informant Ms. Gobbo – would “almost certainly” be murdered if her former clients were told that she was Meanwhile, I spoke to the police when their lawyer was acting and that Mick Gatto, Horty Mokbel – the brother of Tony Mokbel – and others had threatened them.
“This group specifically stated that if  were then found to be a human source [she] would be killed, “was the evidence from Inspector Hall.
The affidavit came from a court case by Victoria Police to prevent Ms. Gobbo’s identity from being revealed.
Throughout the trial, 64-year-old Gatto told the court that the article went too far and damaged his reputation and that of his children.
“They crossed the line by calling me a murderer, a killer and one of the most violent men in Australia,” Gatto said.
“There is nothing further from the truth.”
Gatto a figure of “public interest,” says Richter
Judge Keogh said Mr. Gatto was “a newsworthy and legitimate subject of public concern”.
“The ABC was entitled to devote the report to those parts of the proceedings involving Mr Gatto, provided the article was not so biased or otherwise inclined that it became a skewed report,” he wrote.
“Far from being biased, the article was perfectly accurate and correlated with what was happening in the parts of the trial that were reported.”