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Pretoria - Well-known Silver Lakes psychologist and occupational therapist Christa du Toit is claiming R500 000 in damages from the founder and chairman of Fathers-4-Justice, Dr Steven Pretorius, following an article posted on the internet that Du Toit says was defamatory.
Du Toit turned to the Pretoria High Court as she felt Pretorius, known to campaign vigorously for the rights of single or divorced fathers to have access to their children, harmed her good name and reputation.
She said in court papers that Pretorius and his former wife became embroiled in legal action over the custody of their child. Du Toit was called in by the mother to provide a report on her recommendations in this regard.
After she had submitted her report, Pretorius laid a charge against Du Toit with the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA).
Du Toit was found guilty of having transgressed the rules of the HPCSA and suspended from practice for one year, but the sentence was suspended for three years.
She appealed against her conviction and sentence. Her appeal was upheld and her conviction and sentence were set aside.
Notwithstanding this, Pretorius published a statement on the internet, on a website under the name of Fathers-4-Justice SA, she said. It said she was found guilty of unprofessional conduct and “scrapped” from the roll allowing her to practice as a psychologist. He also said the sentence was suspended for three years.
Du Toit said this was not true, as it meant she had been struck off the roll of practising psychologists and that she was unfit to practice. The truth, she said, was that she had merely been suspended before her name was cleared.
Defending the action, Pretorius said what he stated was the truth and in the public interest. He did not know that Du Toit had lodged an appeal and had won. He became aware of this only when she issued summons against him. Pretorius said that in any event he had removed the statement from his website years ago.
Du Toit’s typist, Linda Faul, testified on Wednesday that she at some stage heard a rumour that her employer had been “scrapped” from the roll.
She was shocked by this allegation, so she did a Google search. She immediately found Pretorius’s website and other links where this allegation was made.
Faul said she found the statement under the heading “To hell with family law”. Pretorius also stated in the article that he had had Du Toit scrapped and that he understood that she was now unable to practice.
Faul informed Du Toit, who told her that her name had been cleared. Faul said Du Toit, who was not computer literate, assured her Pretorius had removed the offensive article. But Faul said she told Du Toit that the “footprint” always remained.
“I am not an IT specialist, but I can find the article today if I do a Google search. Any person who goes into Google will find it,” Faul said.