The next series of the hit television show Underbelly may be in doubt after a former Kings Cross police officer portrayed in the program has threatened to sue for defamation.
Yesterday lawyers for Wendy Gaye Hatfield asked the Supreme Court to allow her to preview episodes from Underbelly: the Golden Years, to determine whether she has been defamed and whether she has grounds to stop all or some of the show from going to air.
Ms Hatfield’s barrister, Sue Chrysanthou, told the court her client did not know precisely what would be shown in the series but could only assume it would suggest she had a sexual relationship with the Kings Cross identity and nightclub owner John Ibrahim after the actors revealed their characters’ relationship to a magazine.
She said it was believed the show would be similar to what appeared in an Underbelly book, published in January.
Defamatory imputations from the book included allegations that, while a police officer, Ms Hatfield had a sexual relationship with Mr Ibrahim “a notorious criminal”, the court heard. Other imputations were that Ms Hatfield had been promoted within NSW police ranks by giving sexual favours and that she was guilty of perjury, the court heard.
“From the nature of what the series is about, being police corruption in the late ’80s and what happens in the Wood royal commission, it is likely … that there will be defamatory imputations carried from the television series,” Ms Chrysanthou said, adding that Channel Nine would be able to pay for any damages through the earnings of commercial breaks in a single episode of the hit show.
There had been “correspondence” between Ms Hatfield’s representatives and the authors of the book, John Silvester and Andrew Rule, but no court proceedings had been launched “as yet”, the court heard.
Channel Nine and Screen Time, the production company which created the series, would not disclose whether the character of Wendy Hatfield would be part of the show. But the website Internet Movie Data Base has listed the former Home and Away actor Jessica Tovey as playing “Junior Constable Wendy Hatfield” in five episodes including one entitled Saving Face, the court heard.
The actor Firass Dirani, who plays John Ibrahim, told OK! Magazine the hardest part about the role was “getting hot and heavy with Constable Wendy”, the court was told.
Ms Hatfield gave evidence at the Wood royal commission denying a sexual relationship with Mr Ibrahim. He admitted to the commission to an “intimate” relationship but refused to answer questions about whether it had been “sexual”.
Channel Nine and Screen Time have denied the series contained all of the material contained in the book or that Ms Hatfield would be defamed by the show.
Justice Ian Harrison reserved his decision until March 12.