Sanderson to Stinson – say sorry or I’ll sue
In a statement last night, Ms Stinson said: “I’ll consider the correspondence. I welcome the opportunity for full transparency on all aspects of the minister’s visits to residential care facilities.”
In the legal letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Sunday Mail, Ms Sanderson warns Ms Stinson unless she retracts her statements and apologises, aggravated damages would be pursued in Supreme Court defamation action.
The legal action, which the Premier’s office is aware of, was triggered by a series of public statements the former TV journalist and Labor adviser made on several radio programs last month.
She aired them after The Advertiser revealed claims about an April visit the minister made to a residential facility along with her department chief executive Cathy Taylor. Labor and unions have called for an explanation after a youth, 17, absconded from the facility and later allegedly went on a crime spree in the wake of the visit.
Investigations into the April 14 crime spree – which included petrol drive offs and a wild pursuit – have examined the circumstances leading up to it. The youth is facing charges.
Ms Stinson was later interviewed by ABC Radio, FIVEaa and Triple M where she made comments about Ms Sanderson’s conduct. Those comments, which the minister rejects, cannot be repeated for legal reasons. The Advertiser is not embroiled in the dispute.
In the concerns notice, Ms Sanderson’s lawyer, Tony Rossi, who is not billing the taxpayer, states there was no basis for Ms Stinson to make the serious allegations about her competence or responsibility.
Ms Stinson, he wrote, had ignored calls to apologise about the claims that she had assured the public were true and thoroughly researched.
“You were motivated by malice towards the minister in seeking, without evidence … (to make) serious allegations in order to cause reputational harm,” he writes.
“Given her prominence in South Australian politics, the falsehood expressed in the publication and republications constitute a serious and untruthful allegation against the minister.”
“The reputational harm is likely to jeopardise her political success and … you were … clearly motivated by a desire to harm the minister’s standing in the community.
“(She) has suffered distress as a consequence. You acted with contumelious disregard as to whether the serious allegations were true or the harm they were likely to cause.”
Mr Rossi states a “reasonable compromise” includes apologies on Ms Stinson and Labor’s social media, on radio and at a press conference, as well as legal costs of at least $3300. Ms Sanderson declined to comment.