A nine-year-old Indigenous boy with dwarfism will receive a “not insubstantial” payout after Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine apologised for tweets suggesting he faked being a bullying victim.
The confidential settlement for Quaden Bayles and his mother Yarraka was approved by Justice Anna Katzmann in the Federal Court on Friday.
A video posted by the mother in February made global headlines after her inconsolable son cried about being bullied at school and urged her to “give me a knife, I’m going to kill myself”.
The clip was met with an outpouring of support and US comedian Brad Williams, who also has achondroplasia dwarfism, set up a GoFundMe page to fund a trip to Disneyland for mother and son.
They declined to take the trip.
Mother and son sued Ms Devine and her employer for tweeting suggestions it was all a ruse and that Quaden was actually an adult actor.
When one of Ms Devine’s 71,000 followers replied “it’s a crime if it is a scam. Child abuse. How could anyone parent do this?”, the New York-based News Corp columnist tweeted “Yep. Exactly. On the case”.
She added a comment: “That’s really rotten if this was a scam. Hurts genuine bullying victims. Over to @dailytelegraph.”
In subsequent tweets she also alleged that Quaden’s mother had been “coaching the kid to say those things that no nine-year-old would say”.
Justice Katzmann was told Ms Devine has now tweeted a “sincere and detailed apology”.
She wrote: “In February this year I posted some comments on my personal Twitter account about Quaden Bayles and his mother Yarraka. I now know those comments were hurtful and untrue. I sincerely apologise to the Bayles for those comments”.
Before approving the settlement – necessary due to Quaden being a child – Justice Katzmann received confirmation from the lawyers and Ms Bayles that the proposal was in his best interests.
“We believe it is quite appropriate and we are very happy with that settlement,” said Ms Bayles, via telephone from interstate.
The confidential settlement referred to the establishment of a trust fund for Quaden’s benefit.
“The settlement sum is not insubstantial,” Justice Katzmann said.
The family will receive close to $200,000 in damages plus legal costs, according to Guardian Australia.
Quaden’s barrister Sue Chrysanthou noted the lack of previous defamation cases involving infants, saying it was unusual to have to assess the reputation of someone aged under 16.
Justice Katzmann congratulated the parties on achieving the settlement.
It is unclear whether either or both Mr Devine and News Corp will cover the settlement plus legal costs.
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