Principal wins his defamation case against pupils

2011-03-09 07:21

The Constitutional Court has ruled that four Waterkloof schoolboys committed defamation when they created and circulated a lewd image of their deputy principal.

The image, the face of Dr Louis Dey on an image of two naked men in a sexually suggestive position, was circulated via cellphone and pinned on the school notice board.

Constitutional Court judges were divided in their opinions about the matter. But the majority judgment held that a reasonable observer would associate the picture with Dey and regard it as defamatory.

Had the defamation claim not prevailed, they ruled, the image would still have hurt Dey’s feelings.

The Constitutional Court reduced the R45 000 payout awarded to Dey by the North Gauteng High Court to R25 000. But it ordered the boys to apologise unconditionally to Dey and pay his court costs.

Waterkloof High School pupils Hennie le Roux, Christian Gildenhuys and Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg had approached the court to challenge damages awarded to Dey by the high court and the appeals court.

Le Roux was the 15-year-old learner who created the defamatory image on his computer.

They were supported by the Freedom of Expression Institute and Restorative Justice Centre, which were allowed to present argument as friends of the court.

The learners based their Constitutional Court challenge on their constitutional right to freedom of expression.

The Freedom of Expression Institute argued that children had the right to freedom of expression and, in particular, to satirical expression. 

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