In October 2014 Pete Griffith a former Scientologist and anti Scientology campaigner was in court having decided to take a case against Zabrina Collins one of the current leaders of Scientology Mission in Dublin. It looked like an open and shut case. He had clearly decided to not address the issue of Scientology at all unless it came up in evidence. I had been asked to attend as an expert witness not so much about the Scientology organisation but rather to give background to Scientology’s presence in Ireland. The second case involved Pete Griffith and John McGhee in the enforcement of a High Court injunction in regard to assault and battery against Zabrina Collins and Michael O’Donnell.
In order to understand the case please read the following post to gain an awareness of the issues involved.
Monday April 25th 2016 in the Circuit Court, Four Courts.
After these lengthy court cases the judgements on the two cases were given in about 15 minutes by Justice O’Donohoe. He intends to give a more thorough written judgement after further editing. It was after all the excitement, a case of it ending not so much with a bang but with a whimper. Pete Griffith was in court to hear the judgement but John McGhee was absent. Zabrina Collins and Michael O’Donnell were also in court.
In regard to the Defamation case, a chiropractor, Zabrina Collins was ordered by Justice O’Donohoe on Monday to pay €5,000 damages for a “vitriolic and personalised” attack on the character of a Co Mayo resident who opposes the beliefs and teachings of the Church of Scientology, of which she is a leading member.
Judge James O’Donohoe in the Circuit Civil Court said that allegations by Zabrina Collins against Peter Griffiths of criminal activity, hate-mongering and links to gay pornographic movies of teenage boys “were largely untrue and grossly defamatory”.
He said an email from Ms Collins to a Dublin headmaster describing Griffiths as not being a fit person to engage with students was “particularly distasteful”, but had not gone far enough to brand him a paedophile either directly or by innuendo.
Judge O’Donohoe had heard that Collins had sent the email to the principal of St David’s CBS, Artane, Dublin, in May 2013 after she discovered a YouTube recording of a talk on “cults” given by Mr Griffiths to a class of teenage boys at the school. She had claimed his talk had centred on Scientology and accused him of “openly and viciously” slandering the church.
She had also accused him of being “an avid hate campaigner against Scientologists” and of “hate-mongering” against the church.
In the email she included a picture of Mr Griffiths that he had allowed to be taken of himself with only his genitals covered with a Guy Fawkes mask, which Mr Griffiths told the court had been taken in support of Prince Harry following a nude photo scandal involving the British royal in a Las Vegas Hotel in August 2012.
Judge O’Donohoe told Seamus O’Tuathail SC, counsel for Mr Griffiths, of Cual Gara, Teeling Street, Ballina, that Ms Collins had sought to prove the truth of each and every allegation against his client, despite the fact there had not been a specific pleading of such in her defence. Mr O’Tuathail had told the court that Mr Griffiths was seeking €50,000 damages against Ms Collins. The judge said on Monday that the claim of qualified privilege regarding Ms Collins’s remarks could not extend to protect such “a vile attack” on Mr Griffiths’s good name.
He said there had been a good deal of history and animus between the two parties that accounted for the tone of the email, which he described as “malicious in the extreme”.
The Judge made the point that Zabrina Collins instead of taking the opportunity to withdraw or at least modify her claim refused to do this. This was likely due to her Scientology conditioning. However, the Judge made the observation that Pete Griffith not Zabrina Collins was the one who published the Zabrina Collins defamation on the internet not her. It is clear she had defamed him, but the defamation was limited in the range of those who had read it. He said publication of the defamatory remarks had not been extensive and had been directed to the school principal
As a result the Judge reduced the damages to Pete Griffith. He also suggested that because Zabrina Collins pursued her case without representation she had weakened her position.
The Assault case
Judge O’Donohoe also gave judgment in a second case in which Ms Collins, a chiropractor, of The Boulevard, Mount Eustace, Tyrrelstown, Dublin 15, and Scientologist Michael O’Donnell, a marketing consultant, of Cherrywood Lawn, Clondalkin, Dublin, sued Mr Griffiths and embalmer John McGhee, of Armstrong Grove, Clara, Co Offaly, for assault and battery. The judge said Mr McGhee had followed Ms Collins and Mr O’Donnell in Dublin as they distributed leaflets against drug-taking. He said that from a video he had seen it was very clear to him that Mr McGhee had certainly been guilty of assault.
He said that Mr McGhee’s harassing of Ms Collins and the grabbing by him of leaflets constituted battery. Judge O’Donohoe told barrister Frank Beatty, counsel for Ms Collins, that his client could be heard letting out a “shrill shriek” on the video, which indicated to the court that she was worried about a battering from Mr McGhee.
Justice O’Donohoe in addressing the issue of the harassment and assault went beyond that and spoke about the tort of assault and battery in regard to Zabrina Collins. He found against John McGhee who he believed had gone beyond his right to protest and had made Zabrina Collins apprehensive.
The judge awarded Ms Collins and Mr O’Donnell a total of €3,500 against Mr McGhee for assault and battery. He saw Michael O’Donnell as not been subject to the same degree of assault as Zabrina Collins.
Mr Griffiths, he said, had played a lesser role by videoing the assault, but had nevertheless participated in what was a joint concerted action with Mr McGhee.
For harassment and assault he awarded Ms Collins and Mr O’Donnell €2,000 damages against Mr Griffiths.
Justice O’Donohoe then brought up the issue of Injunctive relief which had been raised in the High Court by Michael Fitzgerald and Zabrina Collins. Counsel for both sides agreed that the temporary injunction restraining Pete Griffith and John McGhee would remain in operation. Justice O’Donohoe was very clear he was going to put very strict conditions on this injunction when he finalises it.
Mr Beatty and Mr O’Tuathail agreed that the question of costs could be dealt with by the court at a later date. It was suggested by the registrar that the issue of costs would be addressed on Monday May 25th, 2016.
However, I think we can extrapolate some indication of costs from what we know so far. The Judge found against Zabrina Collins in regard to the issue of Defamation. In terms of the amount of time taken up the Courts it is clear the Assault and Battery case has taken up most of the time. So the award of €5000 for the defamation case minus €2000 plus costs for the Assault and Battery case will give Pete Griffith some leeway financially. However, as he sought representation from his legal team to deal with the Assault and Battery charges he will have to pay them their legal expenses in regard that issue and his portion of the legal fees from the other side in regard the Assault and Battery judgement against him and John McGhee. John McGhee himself had no legal representation so he just has to pay the €3500 damages for Assault and Battery and Zabrina Collins’s expenses in regard to the Assault and Battery judgement and the injunction. It is likely that John McGhee’s intervention will cost him dearly and also affect Pete Griffith in the pocket.
The conclusion I had to reach was that unless you believed some ex Scientologists and John McGhee was a double agent it is more likely that as his activism developed without checks and balances this is what happened.
“Since the emergence of Anonymous in 2008 we have seen individuals develop a strategy of hostile confrontation and in your face style of trying to get people to leave Scientology. Here outside their premises they ridicule their beliefs and illegally enter their premises. They actually invade their privacy and mock them on the open road. It has reached such a fever pitch that those involved in this form of protest have no inner awareness that this style of engagement is first of all totally counterproductive in regard to helping those deeply involved Scientologists to leave. It has the opposite effect of pushing them deeper in. It also appears that the need to ratchet up the intensity and compulsive nature is close to getting out of control.”
I stand over what I wrote at the end of the court case in January,
“So now with hindsight we can see that Pete was under the undue influence of anti cult cultism by John McGhee which is the mirror image of the very group they were trying to protest against. The own goal of giving the Scientologists a free run and handing them a propaganda victory and the moral high ground is totally the result of McGhee’s actions.”
As noted earlier why do sane people who have been able to arrange along with others very significant conferences to make the public aware of the Scientology Organisation come to the situation where they totally sabotage the Defamation case where €50K damages are sought? I believe that with all their giftedness both had unresolved issues which needed to be addressed therapeutically. I sense an activism which was used to cover up issues which were unresolved. I believe these events have put back the work of protesting Scientology years. However, one has to remember Scientology in Ireland is on a life support system. What is needed is help for people not pushing them deeper in. When I saw the videos of Zabrina Collins’s assault I was very badly affected watching them.
I noted the Judge was so shocked he had to take a break. When one understands the terrible trauma that she has undergone due to her father Frank’s Shortt’s human rights violation by our state it is not surprising that she turned to Scientology.
We can only hope that she will review her involvement.
Zabrina with husband Ger Collins
Also after this very humbling experience for both John McGhee and Pete Griffith they might consider stepping back and hopefully find peace and resolution in their lives – putting behind them their experience of Scientology and finding new avenues to express their talents.
Filed under: Scientology |