The publisher of the Daily Telegraph will have to part with $2.9 million, after it lost its appeal against a defamation payout awarded to actor Geoffrey Rush.
Rush was awarded the record sum last year, following a Daily Telegraph story that alleged the actor had acted inappropriately with young female actors during a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear in 2015-2016.
Rush has denied the claims.
Nationwide News’s lawyers appealed the ruling on 16 grounds, arguing the sum of the damages were “excessive”.
The full Federal Court has today dismissed all grounds of the appeal.
“This is a case in which particular regard should be had to the advantage which the judge had in seeing and hearing the evidence as it was given,” the appeal judgment said.
“In our view, the judge’s findings are not glaringly improbable, contrary to compelling inferences or inconsistent with incontrovertible facts or other uncontested testimony.”
The payout is comprised of $850,000 in general and aggravated damages, $1.9 million for past and future economic loss, and $42,000 in interest.
The judgement argued the amount awarded to rush was “appropriately high” given the severity of the accusations.
The Daily Telegraph editor Ben English issued a statement on the ruling:
“In November 2017 The Daily Telegraph published an article based on a public statement by the Sydney Theatre Company that an actor had made a complaint against Geoffrey Rush. While we respect the findings of the Full Court the Rush case exposes the inadequacies of Australia’s defamation laws and heightens the need for urgent legislative reform to enable public debate and to encourage women to come forward with their concerns.
“In that context we are very disappointed that the appellate court did not reverse Justice Wigney’s findings as to the credibility of Eryn Jean Norvill or reverse His Honour’s decision to exclude the testimony of Yael Stone. We support both women in their decision to share their complaints.
“We will continue to report on the issues such as these which are of great concern to the Australian public. As stated by High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel last week, there is no place for sexual harassment in any workplace.”
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