Universal Medicine not a 'socially harmful cult', court told
By Sam McKeith
THE lawyer for Universal Medicine founder Serge Benhayon has told a defamation hearing that evidence "falls far short" of proving that the Lismore-based group is a "socially harmful cult".
Mr Behayon, 54, is suing blogger and acupuncturist Esther Rockett in the NSW Supreme Court for defamation over claims made on a blog and in tweets, including that he is a cult leader.
Ms Rockett, a one-time client of Universal Medicine, has been defending the claims at the four-person jury trial in Sydney on bases including honest opinion and truth.
In his closing address on Wednesday, Mr Benhayon's barrister, Kieran Smark, SC, said it was a particular sort of cult that was a "socially harmful one".
Such cults that could "come to mind" included those responsible for the Tokyo subway attack, the Waco cult and the group run by Jim Jones, he said.
But he said Universal Medicine was not a "socially harmful cult at all", arguing that Ms Rockett's legal team had "cherry-picked" a "very small group" of people to support their case.
Mr Smark suggested that claims of "family division" linked to the Lismore-based group were actually examples of typical relationship breakdowns caused by "ordinary and normal" issues.
In the case of one defence witness called at the trial, Mr Smark said the man had separated from his female partner several times before she got involved with Universal Medicine.
"That was indicative, you may think, of a relationship that had trouble in it already," he said.
There was also no evidence of any "abnormal charging" practice at Universal Medicine, Mr Smark said, noting that it cost about $300 for a weekend course and $1900 for a week-long course in Vietnam.
"Clearly he (Mr Benhayon) has made money out of this business ... what's wrong with that?"
Mr Smark also argued that a report from a medical expert that described Universal Medicine as a cult amounted to "speculation" and "projection".
The healer's barrister said it was not "in the world of medicine" that Mr Benhayon operated but in the "different domain" of the "Ageless Wisdom", a type of spiritual knowledge.
"They were like ships in the night," Mr Smark said.
"Mr Benhayon wasn't claiming to be part of that world."
He said Ms Rockett's "remarkably industrious" campaign against his client may have been triggered by her previous bad experience with a healer in Japan.
Ms Rockett, an acupuncturist, has previously claimed that the north coast-based healer performed a "sleazy ovarian reading" on her during a consultation in 2005.
Mr Benhayon has told the trial he felt "raped" by the accusations against him.
The trial continues before Justice Julie Lonergan.