“I’m not a criminal, I’ve never been involved and I will make sure these people are not going to ruin my family – I have grandchildren.”
Milorad “Michael” Trkulja from the country of Australia, won’t stop suing Google until they remove his name and photos from the internet. The Melbourne man has won his High Court battle to sue the search engine for defamation over images and search results that link him to the Melbourne criminal underworld.
Mr Trkulja, who was shot in the back in a Melbourne restaurant in 2004, successfully argued in the Victorian Supreme Court in 2012 that Google defamed him by publishing photos of him linked to hardened criminals of Melbourne’s underworld.
Four years later the Victorian Court of Appeal overturned the decision, finding the case had no prospect of successfully proving defamation.The High Court disputed that ruling in a judgment on Wednesday and ordered Google pay Mr Trkulja’s legal costs.
It’s expected the dispute will go back to the Victorian Supreme Court for trial.Mr Trkulja says he’ll continue the legal action until he gets the result he wants, fearful someone will see the images and tell his grandchildren he’s a hardened criminal.
“I will sue Google … and I will sue them ’til they stop. I want them to block my pictures,” he notes. “I’m not a criminal, I’ve never been involved and I will make sure these people are not going to ruin my family – I have grandchildren.”
A Google spokesperson notes: “We will continue to defend the claim. We decline to comment further on ongoing legal matters.”Google searches for “Melbourne criminal underworld photos” bring up images of Mr Trkulja alongside gangland figures Mick Gatto, Carl Williams, Chopper Reid, Mario Condello and Mark and Jason Moran, his lawyer Guy Reynolds told the High Court in March.
However, Google’s lawyers argued it would be “irrational” for someone to assume photos in a Google image search for underworld figures are all of criminals, because the same search would also bring up the Google logo, movie posters, images of crime victims and photos of actor Marlon Brando.
In a unanimous judgment led by Chief Justice Susan Keifel, the court said it was to be assumed someone searching for members of the Melbourne criminal underworld would “rationally suppose” the people whose pictures or names appeared, or at least some of them, were members of such.
The court found while it was clear some pictured, like Brando, were not criminals, it could be concluded someone who is relatively unknown like Mr Trkulja may be connected with criminality or the underworld.
Mr Trkulja also claimed defamation around Google’s “autocomplete” options for his name, which have included phrases like “is a former hit man”, “criminal” and “underworld”.
However, the court heard autocomplete is an automated function and that previous searches influence future suggestions.