John Barilaro defamation trial ‘a case for the good sense of a jury’, court told

YouTube personality Jordan Shanks should be granted a jury trial in the defamation case brought against him by the NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro because the case will consider changing community standards including the meaning of “conman”, a court has been told.

Mr Barilaro sued Mr Shanks in the Federal Court in May, alleging he was defamed by videos titled bruz and Secret Dictatorship which were published on the Friendlyjordies YouTube channel in September and October last year. Google, which owns YouTube, is also being sued.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro pictured on Tuesday.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro pictured on Tuesday.Credit:Rhett Wyman

The politician argues the videos incorrectly portray him as a “corrupt conman” who “committed perjury nine times” and “should be jailed”, among other imputations.

Mr Shanks has sought to rely on the defences of truth, contextual truth and honest opinion, while Google will argue the defences of qualified privilege, honest opinion, and public interest.

On Tuesday, Mr Shanks’ barrister Matt Collins, QC, presented nine reasons why the trial should be heard with a jury – a rare step in the Federal Court – including that there would be greater community acceptance of any verdict if it was delivered by a jury and not a judge. He said a jury of four people would be preferable.

Dr Collins said one issue to be determined at trial would be the meaning in modern Australia of the terms “corrupt”, “corruptly” and “conman”, which makes the matter “quintessentially a case for the good sense of a jury” rather than a judge.

Being sued for defamation: Jordan Shanks-Markovina, also known as Friendlyjordies.

Being sued for defamation: Jordan Shanks-Markovina, also known as Friendlyjordies.Credit:Facebook

“Of course we don’t say that your honour would be incapable of hearing and determining the case,” Dr Collins told Justice Steven Rares. “The test is, is it expedient in the interests of justice for the case to be heard and determined by a jury.”

Dr Collins said the YouTube videos produced by his client are “a combination of information, comedy, some of it vulgar, satire and parody”. He said the viewers of the videos do not share the views of judges or barristers, as analytics show they are “overwhelmingly young, about 75 per cent of them under the age of 35, and predominately male”.

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