United Kingdom

Lawyer ordered to pay builder neighbour $300,000 for defaming him on A Current Affair

An 'arrogant' lawyer has been ordered to pay her tradesman neighbour $300,000 after a bitter neighbour row over a fence ended in a national TV rant. 

Lawyer Vanessa Hutley accused builder Anthony Cosco of bullying her and her family and making their lives 'hell' during an A Current Affair segment called 'Vent Attack' in June 2016. 

But the petty neighbourhood dispute hit the New South Wales Supreme Court this week, where Justice Stephen Rothman said Ms Hutley, of Balmain, in Sydney's inner west, had bullied Mr Cosco and defamed him in the segment. 

She has now been ordered to pay more than $300,000 in damages. 

Vanessa Hutley (pictured) first took issue with builder Anthony Cosco when he and his family moved into the house next door in Balmain in 2013

The pair live in an exclusive part of Balmain, which has been gentrified and now home to some of Sydney's most elite

In the ACA episode she accused him of bullying her and her family, endangering their lives, threatening her with physical harm, and a host of other claims. 

Mr Cosco launched defamation proceedings against Ms Hutley following the segment, and on Monday NSW Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rothman rejected all of Ms Hutley's defences, including truth.

He said the lawyer had 'displayed an abysmal arrogance and sense of privilege'. 

The court heard the dispute began when Mr Cosco moved into his $1.75million home in 2013 and began making changes to the property, including erecting a tall fence separating the properties.

In the years to follow, both parties took out Apprehended Violence Orders against one another and previous squabbles had landed them in court.

Mr Cosco previously pleaded guilty to malicious damage after he sprayed expanding foam into a vent which led to Ms Hutley's property.

He claims he warned Ms Hutley he would block the vent if she refused to move it, and Justice Rothman said he had no reason not to believe Mr Cosco.

Justice Rothman said he had 'absolutely no doubt that [Mr Cosco]... did not bully the defendant'.    

"Rather, it was [Ms Hutley] ... and her family that bullied the plaintiff and the workers on site."

Mr Cosco (pictured) launched defamation proceedings against Ms Hutley after she accused him of bullying and putting her life in danger during a 2016 episode of A Current Affair

The court heart the dispute began when Mr Cosco moved into his $1.75million home in 2013 and began making changes to the property

On a separate occasion, the court heard Ms Hutley told Mr Cosco 'we're going to roast you, we're lawyers'. 

Maurice Cornielje, a builders labourer who has worked full time for Mr Cosco for about five years but known him for more than 20, gave evidence in court.

He revealed Ms Hutley had verbally abused he and his colleagues on the worksite since 'day one'.

At one point, she suggested they 'don't belong here, that we're foreigners'.   

"Maybe we're all a bit tan, but I was born in Balmain, lived in Balmain my whole life. I went overseas once," Mr Cornielje said.

In another incident, Mr Cornielje accused Ms Hutley of 'acting like a bigot', to which she replied 'you can't even spell the word,' Justice Rothman recounted to the court.  

Ms Hutley was ordered to pay $300,000 in damages plus about $60,000 in interest and legal costs. 

Mr Cosco chose not to sue A Current Affair for the broadcast.  

Mr Cosco wanted to erect a tall fence between the properties (pictured), which Ms Hutley did not approve of

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