Former SAS soldier Ben Roberts-Smith has lost his defamation case against Nine’s mastheads The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and ACM’s The Canberra Times. Roberts-Smith wasn’t in the NSW Supreme Court to hear Justice Anthony Besanko hand down his verdict.
Justice Anthony Besanko has found the newspapers have proven some allegations of war crimes against Roberts-Smith that include he committed serious war crimes, including murder, while serving with the SAS in Afghanistan.
The judge ruled that Roberts-Smith had committed murders of civilians, including of Ali Jan, the farmer kicked off a cliff in the village of Darwan, and the one-legged man dragged from a tunnel at the compound known as Whiskey 108.
The Australian’s headline this afternoon
The SMH has reported: “Justice Anthony Besanko has found the articles at the centre of Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation case conveyed almost every defamatory imputation alleged by him. He must consider the news outlets’ defences to those imputations.”
This afternoon’s Daily Telegraph
All three news outlets aired allegations in 2018, written by award-winning journalists Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters, that Roberts-Smith had unlawfully killed prisoners during his time as a soldier in Afghanistan back in 2012. There were also claims he bullied peers and assaulted a mistress.
Justice Anthony Besanko hands down his verdict this afternoon
The 44-year-old Roberts-Smith strenuously denied all claims against him.
The trial has spanned more than 100 days of hearings across some 13 months, and was unlike any previous defamation case seen in the Australian legal system.
It has said to have cost both sides a staggering $25 million in legal fees.
Ben Roberts-Smith pictured leaving court in 2022
It has been reported that Roberts-Smith’s legal bill is being footed by none other than Seven West Media chairman and billionaire, Kerry Stokes.
During the case, all three newspapers sought to prove that the reports published between June and August 2018, were, in the legal phrase, substantially true
Roberts-Smith is Australia’s most decorated living soldier, having won the Victoria Cross and the Medal of Gallantry. He retired from the military in 2013 to take-up a role with the Seven Network in its Brisbane offices.
The former SAS corporal took leave from his role as general manager of Seven Queensland during the defamation case.
More to come…
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