Zabina Collins, a leading member of the Church of Scientology in Ireland, has told a judge she “could have been a little more temperate” about what she had to say in an email to a school principal complaining about a former church member’s talk to schoolboys on cults.
Ms Collins, who admitted in court to having had a teenage drugs and heavy drinking problem, is being sued for defamation by Peter Griffiths, of Cual Gara, Teeling St, Ballina, Co Mayo, for what his counsel, Seamus Ó Tuathail, described as “a vicious character attack”.
“I could have dealt with it in a more temperate way,” Ms Collins said of her complaint to the headmaster of St David’s CBS in Artane, Dublin, following a post on the internet by Mr Griffiths of what he had said to the school’s Leaving Certificate boys in a talk on cults.
She told counsel John Smith, who appeared with Mr Ó Tuathail and solicitor Cormac Ó Ceallaigh, that she had sent the headmaster a link to an online video showing a picture of Mr Griffiths naked, with only a Guy Fawkes mask covering his genitals.
Ms Collins, a Dublin chiropractic clinic director, of The Boulevard, Mount Eustace, Tyrelstown, Dublin 15, told Judge James O’Donohue she had written to the school principal as a concerned parent and not to besmirch Mr Griffiths.
She earlier told her counsel, Frank Beatty, that while she did not have a child attending St David’s, she was involved in tutoring children on drugs awareness and felt she had a duty to complain.
In her email, Ms Collins alleged Mr Griffiths’ talk had centred on Scientology, which counts actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta as members, and accused him of “openly and viciously” slandering the church. She accused him of being “an avid hate campaigner against Scientologists”, and “hate-mongering” against the church and of being under garda surveillance.
The court heard that a teacher from St David’s had asked Mr Griffiths to address school pupils on cults and that it was Mr Griffiths who had posted an audio clip of his talk online, in which warned the boys of the dangers of getting involved with the Church of Scientology which, he said, might destroy their lives.
Mr Griffiths said he had been shocked, horrified, and appalled when he had obtained sight of Ms Collins’s allegations in which there was “not a grain of truth”.
He said her statements had lowered his reputation in the minds of right-thinking people while holding him up to hatred, ridicule, and contempt.
Ms Collins is a daughter of publican Frank Shortt, who was falsely accused by corrupt gardaí of allowing drug dealing in the nightclub he owned in Donegal.
In 2007, the Supreme Court more than doubled to €4.6m damages awarded by the High Court to Mr Shortt, who was wrongly convicted in 1995 of allowing the sale of drugs at his Point Inn premises in Quigley’s Point, Inishowen, Co Donegal.
He was imprisoned for three years before being cleared.
Judge O’Donohue has reserved his judgment on the defamation case which he has heard over several days.
Yesterday, he started hearing a second case in which Ms Collins and fellow Scientologist Michael O’Donnell, a marketing consultant of Cherrywood Lawn, Clondalkin, are suing Mr Griffiths and John McGhee, an embalmer, of Armstrong Grove, Clara, Co Offaly, for alleged assault, battery, trespass, and nuisance, which both men deny.
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