SYDNEY, Australia – A celebrity photographer who sued a newspaper for accusing him of hounding Nicole Kidman was handed a huge legal bill instead when a judge ruled his intrusive behavior had frightened the actress.
Jamie Fawcett tried to bug Kidman's house in Sydney and had engaged in a dangerous car chase in his determination to photograph the star, New South Wales state Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Simpson said Wednesday.
"That Ms. Kidman was frightened by Mr. Fawcett's conduct cannot be doubted," Simpson said. "The evidence amply demonstrates that Mr. Fawcett's conduct was `intrusive' and `threatening'."
Fawcett had sued Fairfax Media, publisher of The Sun-Herald newspaper, for defamation for a January 2005 gossip column item that accused him of being Sydney's most disliked photographer who was determined to "wreak havoc" on Kidman's life.
A jury last year found that elements of the item defamed Fawcett, but Fairfax sought a further hearing to try to prove that the published claims were true. Simpson was asked to rule on that, and alternatively whether Fawcett should be paid damages, and if so how much.
Simpson found the published comments were "substantially true" and ruled out damages.
She ordered Fawcett to pay Fairfax's legal costs, which were not immediately revealed but would likely run to many tens of thousands of dollars.
Fawcett, who has a reputation as a paparazzi-style photographer who specializes in photographing Kidman when the Oscar winner is on her regular visits to her home town of Sydney, said he would likely appeal Wednesday's ruling.
"It is a massive economic decision for me," Fawcett told reporters outside the court, adding he was "already hurting financially."
Kidman was the star witness in the case, and described to the judge breaking into tears and being terrified of a car wreck as a vehicle with Fawcett inside lurched through traffic as it chased her from her house in Sydney to her mother's in January 2005.
"I was frightened and I was worried there was going to be an accident," Kidman told the court last November.
Simpson said she accepted "absolutely" the testimony Kidman had given, but that Fawcett's evidence could not be relied on. This included Fawcett's denials that he had pursued Kidman dangerously or that he had hidden a listening device outside her home.