Mark McGaw, left, leaves the Supreme Court in November, 2005.
- Photo: Peter Morris
- Photo: Peter Morris
Today Tonight hammered for $385,000
November 2, 2006 - 11:24AM
Former league and Gladiators star Mark McGaw has been awarded $385,000 in damages after suing the Seven Network's current affairs program Today Tonight for defamation.
The program broadcast allegations by his former Bellevue Hill flatmate and business manager, Louise Boucheron, that Mr McGaw had physically assaulted her on three occasions.
A NSW Supreme Court jury found the program contained two defamatory imputations - that Mr McGaw was "a man of dangerous domestic violence", and that he "bashed his lover so severely that she was hospitalised with horrific injuries".
The segment was broadcast in June 2003, the same day Mr McGaw pleaded guilty to assaulting Ms Boucheron after pulling her out of his Mercedes-Benz at Queens Park, in Sydney's east, because she refused to get out.
Mr McGaw, who appeared as Hammer on TV's Gladiators after his football career ended, was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond and no conviction was recorded.
The former Australian and NSW State of Origin player maintains that he never hit Ms Boucheron.
While Justice Stephen Rothman accepted Mr McGaw's evidence "with no hesitation", he found Ms Boucheron "was giving a version of events that was inaccurate or untruthful".
He awarded Mr McGaw $385,000 in damages, saying "it is difficult to imagine a defamation that would have more profound or worse effects on a plaintiff than this one".
"Perhaps the best description is that given by Channel Seven in the broadcast when it described Mr McGaw's public life as 'now in tatters'," the judge said.
"Channel Seven was referring to his plea of guilty, but the description better suits the effect of the broadcast itself.
"There can be little doubt that, in the case of Mr McGaw, the personal distress and hurt occasioned to him has been debilitating and has had a significant and lasting, probably permanent, effect."
Outside court, Mr McGaw said the allegations made by Ms Boucheron had "ruined a lot of lives", and the judgment vindicated him "100 per cent".
"My whole career as a footballer, I went out of my way to do the right thing, to be an upstanding part of the community," the 41-year-old told reporters.
Mr McGaw said the damages were not what mattered to him.
"You don't even think of the money - if it was $10, it wouldn't have mattered. This judgment is priceless."