Gina Edwards v A Current Affair: Barrister tells court of vicious online abuse after cavoodle dispute stories aired

Home Technology Gina Edwards v A Current Affair: Barrister tells court of vicious online abuse after cavoodle dispute stories aired
Gina Edwards v A Current Affair: Barrister tells court of vicious online abuse after cavoodle dispute stories aired

A barrister who is suing a Nine News program over reports which she claims falsely implied she stole an Instagram-famous cavoodle has teared up on the stand while recounting her stoush with a film crew in her “trash bag sweatshirt”.

Gina Edwards was the subject of two A Current Affair broadcasts last year which centred on a custody dispute surrounding the prized cavoodle, named Oscar.

At the Federal Court on Thursday, she revealed how she felt “sick” after encountering a film crew and the journalist Steve Marshall while she was walking Oscar in Kirribilli.

The program broadcast footage of Ms Edwards screaming at the dog’s original owner, Mark Gillespie, as he grabbed Oscar from the dog park.

Mr Marshall is heard questioning her as she phones police.

Ms Edwards gave evidence she thought it was unbelievable that such a “distressing” time of her life would be broadcast all over television while she was wearing a “trash bag sweatshirt”.

“I felt assaulted, stalked, humiliated and harassed; I felt sickened,” Ms Edwards tearfully told the court.

“So many parts of (the broadcast) … calling me essentially a thief and a dog-sitter.

“I felt disappointed because I thought by filing a civil dispute … it would be settled in a court of law, not on some horrible, trashy television program.

“(The broadcasts were) the worst thing I have ever seen. I just wanted to die. I never wanted to be a lawyer again.”

The former US Assistant State Attorney for Florida also told the court of the deluge of social media comments and death threats she had received in the wake of the broadcasts and accompanying online articles.

They were likened to “slow torture” and remained online for everyone to see, she told the court.

Ms Edwards is suing A Current Affair and Mr Marshall over what her legal team says is a “bald-faced lie” in their reporting on the dispute surrounding Oscar’s ownership.

The bitter defamation case has been told Oscar was purchased by Mark Gillespie in 2016, with Ms Edwards and her husband Ken Flavell agreeing to a “co-parenting” arrangement in caring for the cavoodle.

That arrangement then fell apart.

Ms Edwards claims A Current Affair’s broadcasts and other online articles falsely implied she was “a thief” who stole Oscar, that she exploited the dog for financial benefit and deliberately attempted to delay civil court cases involving custody of the dog.

On Thursday, she told the court her husband had told her that a man had “harassed and stalked” him on the street while he walked Oscar.

“I didn’t know what A Current Affair was,” she said.

“I was in shock … you can’t do this when a case is in court.

“I felt sick to my stomach.”

Ms Edwards told the court she contacted A Current Affair the next morning but did not receive any response.

In May 2021, she received a message from a friend inviting her to the park with Oscar.

Ms Edwards became teary recounting a group of men “jumping” out at her, with one introducing himself as “Steve Marshall from A Current Affair”.

“I felt so scared; I turned and ran,” she said.

“I turned around and Mark (Gillespie) jumped out from behind a large tree.

“Oscar ran over to him … Mark said, ‘I’m here to collect my property.’”

Ms Edwards gave evidence she was “surrounded” by the group, who were all filming the confrontation.

She said the film crews kept filming her as she tried to phone the police, while Mr Marshall made jokes and kept asking questions.

“I didn’t understand what was happening,” she said.

“I’m sorry, I’m so embarrassed.”

Ms Edwards told the court she heard Mr Marshall say: “You don’t know how long I’ve been chasing this story”.

When he was informed there was a court case pending, he replied “Yeah, so?” she said.

During cross-examination, Nine’s barrister, Dauid Sibtain, suggested her recollection about any agreements on how Oscar’s expenses would be managed were “vague”.

“No,” she said.

Ms Edwards also denied she facilitated Oscar’s collection through “deceptive” means in advance of meeting with Mr Gillespie’s relatives down in Wingello, in the NSW Southern Highlands.

The court was told the trio had a “reconciliation” agreement where they would attempt to reimburse each other if they paid more than they needed to while looking after the dog.

“Mark was continuing to bring over food and other supplies for Oscar in that second half of 2016?” Mr Sibtain asked.

“Not every single time, but in the messages you showed me, yes,” she responded.

Ms Edwards said Oscar’s social media account had become “valuable” because it had 10,000 followers.

Multiple social media posts were read to the court, one of them telling Ms Edwards she should “catch a bullet”.

Ms Edwards said she developed an eating disorder because of the stress of the broadcasts and online comments,

“The fear I felt on the day of the assault was made so much worse by receiving death threats from members of the public,” she said.

“(The comments) were left up for a very long time. They were like slow torture.

“I can’t comprehend how they’re still online.”

The hearing continues.

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