A nine-year-old Indigenous boy with dwarfism will receive a “not insubstantial” payout after News Corp columnist Miranda Devine apologised for suggesting he faked being bullied to scam money.
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.
The mother and son sued Devine and her employer for tweeting suggestions it was all a scam and that Quaden was actually an adult actor.
When one of 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 tagged The Daily Telegraph in a later tweet suggesting Ms Bayles had coached her son.
Justice Katzmann was told 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.
His 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.
The judge set out the background to the proceedings noting the suggestion Quaden was an actor and the video a fake insinuated that it was “a money-making scam”.
The confidential settlement referred to the establishment of a trust fund for Quaden’s benefit.
“The settlement sum is not insubstantial,” Justice Katzmann said.
She congratulated the parties on achieving the settlement.