Diluted Thinking

in Australian healthcare

AVSN: Apprehended Violence Orders

The article Founder of anti-immunisation group Australian Vaccination Network, Meryl Dorey, uses AVOs to gag critics was published in The Daily Telegraph on 20 May 2013. It describes how Meryl Dorey had attempted to take out personal apprehended violence orders against three of her critics in an effort to stop them from publicly criticising her.

I'd like to take a deeper look at this issue, because it raises some interesting questions in regard to activism.

Apprehended Violence Order (AVO)

First of all, let's look at what a personal apprehended violence order is and what it is meant to do. According to NSW Victims Services, Attorney General and Justice, an AVO is a court order that restricts the behaviour of the person you fear from:

There are different types of apprehended violence orders. The types relevant to this case are:

Note: the other types of Orders not mentioned here are the Provisional Order which is usually taken out by Police if they believe the order will help you from suffering personal violence, and the Domestic Violence Order.

To get an AVO issued you can:

Meryl Dorey sought personal AVOs at the Ballina Court on 5 September 2012 against the following three people:

  1. Daniel Raffaele: for allegedly making nuisance phone calls to Meryl Dorey's residence;
  2. Dan Buzzard: for a comment he posted on Twitter; and
  3. Peter Bowditch: for a comment he posted on Twitter.

The Ballina Court did not make AVOs against any of the individuals on this date. Note: in cases where the magistrate is satisfied that there are fears for your safety and those fears are reasonable, the court can make an AVO at this time regardless of whether the defendent is present in court or does not consent to the order.

Daniel Raffaele

On 27 September 2012, the Ballina Court made an interim AVO against Raffaele. As mentioned earlier, interim AVOs can be made to protect a person between court dates.

In the case of Raffaele, it was alleged that he placed six phone calls to the Dorey residence on 12 August 2012, between approximately 2:15am and 3:30am. Dorey released recordings of two of the phone calls on the AVSN's official blog, No Compulsory Vaccination, on 30 September 2012.

After some delays in proceedings, including a dismissal then an annulment, a personal AVO was eventually made against Raffaele.

Raffaele, according to the media article above, denies making the phone calls and agreed to the order because he was "sick of dealing with it", although he made sure her "gag order" was struck out.

Regardless of who made the phone calls, there is no question that they would have been intimidating. There was widespread condemnation of this behaviour, even from the AVSN's most vocal critics.

Peter Bowditch

No interim AVO was made against Bowditch. The case was finally heard on 26 April 2013 and was dismissed.

In Bowditch's case, the offending tweet was made five months before Dorey made an AVO application to the court, and was also made in response to Dorey actually threatening to contact his own family.

There is no doubt that this AVO was a blatant abuse of the system by Dorey to score a point against the Australian Skeptics and to silence Bowditch. I am bemused that Dorey, on a particular day in September 2012, suddenly became fearful of a critic she had been dallying with since the AVSN sprung into existence in 1994.

For further details, please read Bowditch's account of this sordid affair at The Millenium Project - The great court attack is over

Update 28 May 2013: Meryl Dorey has employed yet another delaying tactic and has further exploited the legal process by filing an appeal against the dismissal of 26 April.

Update 15 June 2013: Meryl Dorey defames Bowditch during a TV interview on the national current affairs program, Today Tonight, making an accusation that, "And he told people to send me pornography, twice."
Source: Vaccination fight (14 June 2013)
Bowditch has never suggested any such thing. I don't think there is any doubt that Dorey is abusing the legal process and will lie in attempting to silence her critics.

Update 17 June 2013: A mention date for Dorey's appeal has been set for 29 July 2013. For more information, head on over to Peter's site at The Millenium Project - The idiocy continues.

Update 3 Aug 2013: The above hearing has been adjourned until 18 September. Refer FFS! It's still going on!

Update 16 Sep 2013: It's all over! Meryl Dorey has withdrawn her appeal. Go catch up on the good news with Peter's media release Meryl Dorey and the AVN - Another loss in court

Dan Buzzard

An interim AVO was made against Buzzard on 27 September 2012 in the Ballina Court.

A hearing is scheduled in the Ballina Court on 24 May 2013, so I will restrict particulars of this case to what Meryl Dorey has already made publicly available. According to information on the AVSN website, the case against Buzzard is that on 2 September 2012, he allegedly posted a tweet that said, "So the place to mail goatse images to is [redacted AVN postal address]. Right? #stopavn". Do note that Buzzard did not attach the image, nor provide a link to the image, in this tweet. Warning: if you don't know what a goatse image is, I suggest ignorance is bliss. It is NSFW.

I'll refrain from commenting further on this until after the court hearing scheduled for 24 May 2013.

Update 23 May 2013: The court hearing scheduled for 24 May is now a mention due to Meryl Dorey adopting more delaying tactics in asking the magistrate to recuse herself. Will update further after the mention has been held.

Update 29 May 2013: A new court hearing has been scheduled for 22 August 2013.

Update 25 Aug 2013: WIN! Read all about it at Legal Victory Meryl Dorey's gag order failed. I look forward to Dan providing more details so we can discover the full extent to which Dorey abused the legal process. The icing on the cake was Dorey being ordered to pay Buzzard's legal costs of just over $11,000. Justice.

Activism

The cases of Buzzard and Raffaele illustrate the repercussions of, in my opinion, inappropriate behaviour. Whilst Buzzard's quip on social media should definitely not be considered in the same category as the phone calls, neither action advanced the cause of improving public health or educating the public about the dangers of the anti-vaccination movement; in fact, those actions risked the anti-vaccination movement receiving support it absolutely does not deserve.

This is not to say that strong opinion or harsh criticism is not warranted or is inappropriate. The anti-vaccination movement is potentially dangerous, it is affecting public health, and therefore it is to be expected that people will voice their concerns and opinions, sometimes in a forceful manner. What is important when reading any opinions - from both sides - is to appreciate the context and intent of the message which, some readers will know, can make a single word such as "supposedly" one of the cruelest ever uttered.

Supporters of the anti-vaccination movement in Australia are critical of the attention the AVSN has been receiving constantly for four years now. But it is not intimidation, nor is it harassment, for a constant stream of false and misleading information to be constantly corrected and/or challenged. It is not intimidation, nor is it harassment, for an organisation that consistently fails to abide by government regulations to be consistently reported for such failures.

I don't doubt that Dorey et al see it otherwise. When you have thousands of critics and you say, or do, something deserving of criticism, then it must be difficult not to feel intimidated by single critical messages from hundreds of different people; but this is not intimidation. We should, however, bear in mind that personal, off-topic remarks only add to an already over-blown persecution complex and do nothing to further the cause.