The publisher of The Daily Telegraph sensationally dropped a bias claim during the appeal of the Geoffrey Rush defamation case in Federal Court on Monday.
The publisher Nationwide News is currently appealing the ruling made earlier this year to award Rush $850,000 in damages and $1.98 million for past and future economic loss, after The Daily Telegraph detailed allegations against the actor in 2017.
But the appeal took on twist on Monday, when Nationwide News’ barrister Tom Blackburn SC told the court the paper would no longer be pursuing its apprehended bias claim, according to The Australian.
The publication had previously told the court that a host of factors had created an apprehension of bias during the original trial. But after an adjournment, Blackburn then “abandoned” the claim, explaining that if the publisher was successful with its other appeal claims “there would have to be a retrial”.
Rush’s barrister Bret Walker SC, blasted the publication’s withdrawal, telling the court it was a “slur both on the trial judge and the cogency of the vindication my client has enjoyed in the court below”.
Despite dropping the bias claims, Nationwide news will continue to argue that Rush was awarded excessive damages in the ruling.
The court was told Rush failed to disclose full details of his economic situation in his defence.
“Although Mr Rush delivered his lines in the witness box over a period of three days, there was one thing he didn’t say, ‘I’m unable to work because of these articles.’ He just didn’t say it,’’ said Blackburn.
Blackburn also claimed that Justice Wigney, who made the historic ruling, then “used this as a central plank for his finding”.
Nationwide News is also appealing Wigney’s decision to rule the newspaper’s witness Eryn Jean Norvill – who was later revealed to be the woman at the centre of the allegations – as “an unreliable witness prone to exaggeration’’.