February 21, 2024

A group of Australians who challenged the constitutional validity of COVID-19 measures will have to pay more than $200,000 to cover the legal costs of multiple governments.

The group was led by NSW woman Cienna Knowles who claimed she was “non-consensually double-vaccinated”.

She was hospitalized as a result of adverse vaccine side effects and lost her job and other opportunities, she said in the claim dismissed by Federal Court Justice Debra Mortimer in June.

The case was brought against the Commonwealth, Victoria, NSW, Tasmania, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

They sought a combined $363,492.67 lump sum to cover their legal costs after the case was dismissed.

Justice Mortimer has instead ordered they be paid $214,023.

The challengers had been given a reasonable opportunity to consider discontinuing the case, but there was a public interest in their argument which warranted a discount on the full amount, she said.

She also noted the solicitor for the group had advertised online for donations.

“We have been preparing legal challenges to help bring about sense and reason to Australia’s COVID-19 response – your help and generosity will assist legal costs in maybe one of the biggest challenges for freedom in the history of Australia,” one ad said.

“Unity and courage in our current situation for future generations depends upon it.”

It wasn’t clear if any money was raised, or if so, what it had been spent on, the judge added.

Alongside Ms Knowles, challengers included Melbourne electrical contractor John Harding who claimed he was unable to work in the construction industry unless he submitted himself to vaccination and hairdresser Murat Temel who said he could not travel through NSW.

Queensland truck driver and businessman Antoine Sandroussi said he “submitted himself to vaccination in circumstances that amounted to coercion, and without the giving of prior medical consent”.

They challenged the validity of lockdown measures and restrictions, arguing they were invalid because they contravened sections of the Constitution or were legally unreasonable.

In dismissing the case, Justice Mortimer said it had many flaws.

“Their case is a general attack on the government response across Australia to the COVID-19 pandemic through the use of a vaccination program,” she said.

It was practically impossible in circumstances like a pandemic for a government to implement a responsive public health measure that causes or does no harm, she said.

“The entire situation involves weighing the potential harm apprehended from the spread of the COVID-19 virus against the impacts on a community of measures designed to minimize that harm, recognizing the harm caused by the virus cannot be avoided altogether,” she said.

BREAKDOWN OF COSTS AWARDED:

Commonwealth – $50,000

NSW – $39,023

Victoria – $50,000

Tasmania – $15,000

Western Australia – $20,000

Northern Territory – $20,000

Queensland – $20,000

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