Universal Medicine founder Serge Benhayon has lost a defamation action against one of his greatest critics, Byron Bay blogger Esther Rockett.
Mr Benhayon took Ms Rockett to court over a series of blog postings she made that accused the organisation of being a cult and Mr Benhayon of inappropriately touching her during a healing session she dubbed a ‘sleazy ovarian reading’.
But her lawyer, Stewart O’Connell, said that a Supreme Court jury had found many of the claims were true.
‘They found Mr Benhayon was the leader of a socially harmful cult, they found that [he] had intentionally indecently touched a number of his clients in treatment rooms, they found that [he] was dishonest and they found that he engaged in a healing fraud that was harmful,’ Mr O’Connell said.
AAP reported the four-person jury found he ‘engages in bizarre sexual manipulation to make money for his business… vilified people with disabilities, is dishonest and guilty of exploitative behavior’.
Other ‘substantially true’ findings included that he ‘has an indecent interest in young girls as young as 10 whom he causes to stay at his house unaccompanied’, preys on cancer patients and ‘is a charlatan who makes fraudulent medical claims’.
The jury also found ‘substantially true’ that Mr Benhayon had ‘exploited children by having them vouch for UM’s dishonest healing practices’ and ‘exploits cancer patients by targeting them to leave him bequests in their wills’, AAP reported.
The leader of the Goonellabah based group told the court he was a reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci during the trial.
In his closing address Mr Molomby SC stated to the jury that the man in the witness box was not Leonardo Da Vinci, ‘he is just a conman from Goonellabah’, and ‘not Mona Lisa anymore. Mona Liar’.
Mr Benhayon was not in court to hear the verdict but Ms Rockett was and was subsequently photographed outside in the company of one of her solicitors making a V sign.
Refused to be bullied
In a media statement issued late yesterday, Ms Rockett’s solicitor, Stewart O’Connell, described the win as ‘a comprehensive victory against a Goliath organisation by a woman who refused to be bullied.
‘It is a complete vindication of Ms Rockett, an indictment against Mr Benhayon, Universal Medicine and their various practices, and a victory for free speech,’ he added.
Ms Rockett said the jury had ‘validated my criticisms of this cult and its leader’.
‘It is vital that Australians are able to exercise their lawful right to raise concerns about people who are preying on the some of the most vulnerable members of the community,’ she said.
‘It is also a timely reminder that we need proper regulation of health care providers who take money for worthless services, carry out practices of inappropriate touching and give harmful advice.
‘Myself and my supporters would like to thank the jury for their diligent and conscientious service throughout the trial. They made the decision I had hoped for,’ Ms Rockett said.