Oscar the cavoodle: Barrister Gina Edwards sues A Current Affair for defamation

Home Technology Oscar the cavoodle: Barrister Gina Edwards sues A Current Affair for defamation
Oscar the cavoodle: Barrister Gina Edwards sues A Current Affair for defamation

A decorated barrister – who is suing a Nine News program over reports which she claims falsely implied that she stole an Insta-famous cavoodle – was “ambushed” by a media crew and the dog’s owner while walking the dog, after the media had staked out her work and home for hours, a court has been told.

Prized pooch Oscar is at the centre of a bitter defamation case between Gina Edwards and Nine Network’s A Current Affair, after the program pushed what Ms Edwards says is a “bald-faced lie” in their reporting of a dispute between Ms Edwards and the dog’s owner, Mark Gillespie.

Top silk Sue Chrysanthou SC detailed texts between Mr Gillespie and ACA journalist Steve Marshall, which discussed a “stake out” of Ms Edwards’ house in what they dubbed “Operation cavoodle capers”.

She told the Federal Court the resulting program pushed a “bald-faced lie” that it was simply a coincidence that the pair ran into each other in a Kirribilli dog park in mid-2021.

“He (Mr Marshall) organised it,” Ms Chrysanthou said.

Ms Edwards is suing the Nine Network’s A Current Affair program and one of its journalists over two reports centred on the dog.

Ms Edwards claims the reports, which aired in May and June last year, falsely implied she was a thief who stole Oscar from her owner, Mark Gillespie.

She also claims the reports implied she had exploited the dog for financial benefit and had deliberately attempted to delay court cases surrounding the dog.

Ms Edwards wants the stories removed from the internet and the archives, as well as payment for the damage incurred.

Nine has denied defaming Ms Edwards – a former US Assistant State Attorney for Florida – and has claimed the imputations of theft and stealing were not conveyed.

On Monday, the Federal Court was told Ms Edwards felt “embarrassed and humiliated” over the program, claiming she felt she had been “ambushed”.

Fellow barrister Mark Maconachie gave evidence that an “extremely upset” Ms Edwards phoned him after the program’s film crews “jumped out of the bushes” while she was walking Oscar.

“She was obviously upset, breathing quickly, her voice was high-pitched,” Mr Maconachie said.

During another phone call, Mr Maconachie recalled Ms Edwards saying: “Why is this happening to me? I didn’t do anything to deserve this.”

He said she was upset at being likened to a “crazy dog thief”.

The court was told Ms Edwards stopped coming into the office until April this year.

Earlier in the day Ms Chrysanthou, acting for Ms Edwards, said her client, her husband Ken Flavell and Mr Gillespie “acted as a family” in caring for the dog.

Ms Chrysanthou told the court the trio had exchanged “thousands” of messages and assigned names like “Mami, Papi” and “Daddy”.

But a civil dispute eventually broke out over the ownership of Oscar.

During this time Mr Gillespie contacted A Current Affair and Mr Marshall.

The Nine News program’s first report captured dramatic footage of Mr Gillespie grabbing the dog from a park in Kirribilli while Ms Edwards chased him.

She accused Mr Marshall of perpetuating a “bald-faced lie” by claiming they simply “bumped” into both Mr Gillespie and Ms Edwards in the park when they had actually orchestrated the confrontation.

Texts between the pair discussed “Operation cavoodle capers” being “underway”, with Mr Gillespie confirming he was “heading” to a position to stake out Ms Edwards’ home, Ms Chrysanthou told the court.

“Just lie after lie after lie,” she said.

“Mr Gillespie used the media to put improper pressure on my client during the court proceedings … in the face of repeated advice he not take the matter to the press.

Ms Chrysanthou said during the broadcasts, her client and husband were referred to as “dog sitters” and a claim was made that Ms Edwards “never wanted to visit him as a pup”.

Mr Gillespie was filmed repeatedly claiming Oscar belonged to him and that Ms Edwards was trying to steal the dog from him, she told the court.

“The thousands of photos and text messages … show Mr Gillespie is utterly lying,” Ms Chrysanthou said.

Ms Chrysanthou told the court her client was a reader for the bar at the time Nine’s programs were broadcast.

She described the publications as a “six-month campaign” of “harassment” as her client was pursued at work, home and court.

“There is nothing in these publications that resembles the work of journalists,” Ms Chrysanthou said.

The hearing, before Justice Michael Wigney, continues.

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