Belle Gibson fined $30k in Vic court
Gibson gave little or no money to charities she promised to donate to.
Disgraced health personality Belle Gibson has to pay $30,000 towards the legal costs of Consumer Affairs Victoria and is banned from making deceptive claims about her health in connection with wellbeing advice.
But the Federal Court orders, handed down in Melbourne on Friday, could just be the beginning of punishment for the businesswoman who said she had brain cancer and then claimed a miraculous recovery.
Annabelle Natalie Gibson is yet to be penalised for the misleading and unconscionable conduct the Federal Court has found her guilty of.
The consumer watchdog also wants the young mother to publish an apology in The Australian and Herald Sun newspapers.
Justice Debra Mortimer has ordered that Gibson is prohibited from claiming, in connection with the development and promotion and sale of her wellness advice:
– that she had been diagnosed with brain cancer at any time before May 24, 2016
– that she was given four months to live
– that she had taken and then rejected conventional cancer treatments in favour of embarking on a quest to heal herself naturally.
Consumer Affairs Victoria took Gibson to court last year alleging she had lied about a 2009 brain cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery.
It was also alleged that she had lied to consumers about donating to charities from the sales of her Whole Pantry app.
Gibson advertised that money from product sales would go to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, the Birthing Kit Foundation and five-year-old brain cancer sufferer Joshua Schwarz, among others.
In reality, she gave little or no money to these groups and Joshua, but used the promise of giving to boost her own image and success, Justice Mortimer said.
Gibson’s donations were “sporadic” and “opportunistic”, apparently motivated by media investigations into her claims.
Last month, the judge said Gibson may have been under “some kind of delusion” about having cancer and questioned whether she had a psychological problem.
There is no one to answer that question because neither Gibson nor any lawyer on her behalf has ever turned up to the Federal Court case.
For this reason, Justice Mortimer has not been able to find that Gibson concocted a “ruse from the start” to deceive consumers.
However, she found the allegations of misleading and unconscionable conduct to be mostly true, saying Gibson had “played on the genuine desire of members of the Australian community to help those less fortunate”.
An excerpt from Gibson’s Whole Pantry Book describes her journey from being told she had four months to live, to finding out she was pregnant, to rejecting medical intervention and travelling the country in search of natural treatment and non-medical advice.
Gibson has 60 days to pay Consumer Affairs Victoria and if she refuses to obey, she will be liable for imprisonment, sequestration of property or other punishment, the court orders say.
Penalties for her deceptive and unconscionable conduct are expected to be handed down in mid-June.