Woods vs. Scientology Court Case

[The original version of this page by Martin Poulter is no longer available. This shortened version hasn't preserved ephemeral media links - HHP]

This page is presented as a source of information on ex-scientologist Bonnie Woods' successful attempt to get justice after being libelled by Scientology and its spokespeople.

On 8th June 1999 in the High Court, Scientology totally capitulated in a libel case brought by ex-member Bonnie Woods, settling for the following conditions:

This represents a complete victory for Bonnie Woods in a case was has been going for six years. Informal estimates are that Scientology has spent 5 million pounds fighting the case. Three counter-claims brought by Scientology were dismissed with prejudice last year.

This result is thanks to Bonnie's pro bono representation by the major City law firm Allen and Overy.

Bonnie outside High Court

At 10.30 this morning, Bonnie, her husband Richard, her legal team, and many friends and well-wishers gathered in the High Court to hear the apology in an extremely brief session. As we came out of the court, Scn spokesman Graeme Wilson distributed an official statement which does not mention the apology and damages and clearly implies that Bonnie has apologised to Scientology. Outside the court (picture left) Bonnie was met by a crowd of TV and press journalists and happily posed for the cameras with her husband and her cute baby granddaughter.

Bonnie and Richard now plan to take a long holiday, the first they have had in a long time. The legal fight with scientology is still ongoing, though, in that Narconon have an outstanding libel suit against them and just last week a scientologist filed suit against Bonnie for false imprisonment. (Anyone who has knows the Woods and has visited their house knows how absurd this allegation is.)

Bonnie sends her love and thanks to all who have supported her.

Media Coverage

Sunday Times, 19 January 1997: Hounded by the church of stars and hype
"Of Ingram and the warrant for his arrest, a (Scientology) spokesman said: 'Jesus Christ was a wanted man. Just because he is wanted does not mean anything.'"

The American, 6 March 1998: Scientology's Campaign of Hate, by 'Cult-Busters'
"Woods was living communally in Los Angeles with other scientologists and working 70 hours a week for the church when she was diagnosed with endometriosis. Her condition required major surgery. [H]er working environment at the scientology headquarters and the church's strict diet of rice and beans might have brought on her illness."

The Express, 8 June 1999: Stars' cult pays out 155,000 over hate campaign
"The cult favoured by Hollywood stars is to pay 155,000 for harassing a woman in a six-year campaign of hate." Full article.

Reuters, 8 June 1999: UK Scientologists pay damages to former member
"The Church of Scientology on Tuesday agreed to pay a former member 55,000 pounds ($88,000) in libel damages and to apologise publicly for calling her a hate campaigner." Full article.

The Times, 9 June 1999: Sect pays 55,000 to 'hate' victim
"Bonnie Woods, 49, fought a six-year libel battle against the Church that is estimated to have cost 100,000 and involved more than 25 appearances in court."

The Guardian, 9 June 1999: Scientologists pay for libel
"Mrs Woods said she was absolutely delighted with the outcome. The leading City law firm Allen & Overy took on her case free of charge at the request of the civil liberties organisation Liberty." Full article.

The Independent, 9 June 1999: Woman accused of hate campaign wins damages from Scientologists
"Mrs Woods said demonstrators paraded outside the couple's home and the house was watched. A private detective working for the Scientologists encouraged a creditor to pursue a claim against her and she was declared bankrupt."

The Daily Mail, 9 June 1999: Cult pays 155,000 over hate campaign
"The church, whose followers include John Travolta, Tom Cruise and wife Nicole Kidman, admitted it had waged a dirty tricks campaign against Mrs Woods."

The Express, 9 June 1999: My victory joy after six-year battle with cult
"Often during the last six years I have wondered why am I doing this? Sometimes when it was very hard, if not impossible to carry on, I got so discouraged I didn't think I could go to one more hearing. What kept me going was the need to speak the truth about Scientology as I understand it to be,"- Bonnie.

St. Petersburg Times, Florida, USA, 9 June 1999: Scientology apologizes, settles British libel suit

The Lawyer, 14 June 1999: A&O defeats Scientologists
"(Ian) Thomas says: "Bonnie was unable to pay the costs from the beginning. That is why we were charging her nothing. I don't understand why the Scientologists are using this as a reason to admit liability now."

The Independent, 22 June 1999: Going ten rounds with Goliath
Ian Thomas writes about the significance of the case.

News on the Woods vs_ Scientology Court Case_files
From a picket of Scientology at Tottenham Court Road, London, 1996.
Bonnie is on the left of the front row.

Previous news and background

Following an application for discovery of the OT and other advanced materials, the Church of Scientology has discontinued its counter-claims, with prejudice (ie. those claims cannot be brought again). This means that Bonnie has legally established her right to talk about Scientology and to call it a cult.

The Woods are ex-Scientologists; Bonnie formerly a Sea Org'er on staff in LA and Richard a former public member who took the Communications course, the Personal Integrity Course and some Book One auditing. They have done exit-counselling work and were a point of contact for people with a problem with Scientology in the UK. Since 1995 they have been involved in a hefty court battle: Scientology has passed out defamatory leaflets about them in their neighbourhood, as well as regular venomous articles in "Freedom". Saint Hill's one-time spokesman Peter Mansell went into an extremely hostile verbal denunciation of Bonnie on a programme on Irish TV, when she was not present and had not been mentioned. Most bizarrely of all, when Bonnie and Heber Jentsch were both guests on This Morning with Richard and Judy, a live TV show in the UK, Heber fired off a salvo of defamatory accusations, to the astonishment of the presenters.

Dispute at Picket
The police arbitrate in a dispute between Richard Woods (right) and an aggressive Scientologist

Bonnie sued Scientology and some of its spokespeople for libel and for other harassment and fair-gaming which she and her family have had to put up with over the years. (Regular Scientology-watchers will recall that the Woods had their home in East Grinstead picketed in 1996). Scientology in turn fired off three libel writs (a lot in UK law, even by the standards of a very litigous organisation) for occasions on which Bonnie has called Scientology a dangerous cult.

One of those writs came because Bonnie and Richard handed out an anti-Scientology leaflet as part of the Families Under Scientology Stress campaign.

For a while, the situation of the case was familiar from followers of net-related cases: Bonnie and Richard had their friends and the law books from their local library while the cult hired the best lawyers money could buy. Working regularly on their case was their friend Ron Lawley (he of the "Great NOTS-pack Robbery"). Ron's case was supported by some very kind donations from netizens, and since Ron and Bonnie were sharing resources, the kindness of ARS'ers helped Bonnie out at a time when she had trouble even buying the train ticket to the court.

A huge boost to their case came when Dave Bird recommended the case to the Liberty Panel, and a very prestigious legal firm agreed to give pro bono help. The legal humiliation that Scn is going through now is no doubt a direct result of that.

This is all great news for us suppressives in the UK. Real venomous hatred has been incited against Bonnie, as we have seen from the way she is treated by scientologists personally and in their publications. When she has attended pickets at Tottenham Court Road, she has kept a good distance away from the Org itself, but some of the scientologists have hassled her with such a barely concealed menace that we were really worried for her physical safety.

Thanks to Ted Mayett from whose mirror this page has in turn been copied.

Bonnie and Richard Woods now run Escape, a Christian ministry helping families who have loved ones involved in Scientology.

Bonnie's book (cover left) on her experiences was finally published in May 2009, after UK publishers had refused to touch it despite the protection her libel case gave her. It is available from Amazon in the UK and USA, a search for 'Deceived Bonnie Woods' will find it.

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