Secrecy bid rejected in defamation case over ‘cheater’ letter

A man battling in court against a former partner who allegedly outed him as a love rat to his new fiancee has lost his bid to have a defamation trial heard in secret.

IT consultant Constantine Arvanitis is suing ex-girlfriend Selina Holder after she allegedly teamed up with two other women to write a letter that claimed he was a violent sex addict.

An eight-day trial is due to begin in the County Court on May 17. Mr Arvanitis wanted the matter to be heard behind closed doors after the legal action was revealed in The Age.

Constantine Arvanitis has lodged a defamation lawsuit against his former partner. Credit: Supplied

Ms Holder is accused of joining forces with two other women, who also dated Mr Arvanitis after meeting him on Tinder, to send a letter to his new partner telling her to leave him.

In a hand-written letter to Melanie Thornton, which is outlined in court documents, the women wrote “we are the sisterhood” and cautioned against dating Mr Arvanitis because he was “dangerous”.

“Melanie, we have tried to speak to you to warn you about Con so many times. He is dangerous and violent and sex addict (sic). He goes to Sydney and cheats on you,” the letter stated, according to court documents.

“We are the sisterhood. We have to expose him. He will take all your money. He has to be stopped.”

After the matter surfaced in the media, Mr Arvanitis made an application to the judge for a pseudonym order that would de-identify him as “John Down” and for the matter to be heard in a closed court.

At a hearing on April 22 to discuss the application, barrister Lana Collaris, acting for Mr Arvanitis, said the reporting of the case in the media had escalated her client’s stress.

A medical report filed with the court by Mr Arvanitis said that his primary way of coping with the publicity was to withdraw from social activities.

Mr Arvanitis denies the allegations.

“The longstanding acrimony … has had a significant impact on him which can only be exacerbated by the reporting,” Ms Collaris said.

“If these proceedings are published, that defeats the very purpose of the proceedings.”

Ms Collaris also accused Ms Holder of taking her story to the media, saying there was a circumstantial case that she had leaked it to The Age to apply pressure on Mr Arvanitis to settle the matter.

“I say that there is evidence before the court … that it was leaked by the defendant,” she said. “We now find ourselves in a position where we have to fix the damage the best we can.”

Barrister Barrie Goldsmith told the court that there was no evidence that his client, Ms Holder, had contacted The Age or any other media organisation.

“It is not to be overlooked that the plaintiff has elected to commence these defamation proceedings,” he said. “He has decided to sue. He has elected to do this of his own volition.”

Mr Goldsmith said the plaintiff had been “outed for his womanising” and was now trying to undo the damage. “This is purely a selfish application because he’s elected to commence these proceedings. He has elected to pursue them,” he said.

“If the plaintiff does not like the heat of the kitchen, get out of the kitchen.”

The Age was granted leave at the hearing to oppose the application for the trial to be heard behind closed doors. Lawyer Sam White, acting for the newspaper, said that reporting of the case had been fair and reasonable.

“There is no reason why the principle of open justice should be departed from on this occasion,” he said.

“If the plaintiff has truly wanted to make this matter confidential, he ought to have done so at an earlier stage of the proceeding. And to do so now is simply not possible.”

Mr White rejected suggestions the story was leaked, telling the court the reporting had come from journalists simply checking court lists.

Judge Julie Clayton dismissed most of Mr Arvanitis’ application at a hearing on Friday.

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