Amber Harrison has been found in contempt of court for repeatedly breaching gag orders placed on her during her long-running dispute with her former employer Channel Seven and former lover, the network’s CEO Tim Worner.
Yesterday, Harrison was found guilty in the NSW Supreme Court of the contempt charges, but avoided any penalty which included possible jail time.
Seven’s lawyers sought the contempt order but did not apply for an order that Harrison be punished or have to pay its legal fees that are reportedly nudging the $1 million-mark. Harrison, who was not present in court yesterday, has previously said any financial punishment would bankrupt her.
In a statement to B&T, a Seven spokesperson said of yesterday’s verdict: “Seven notes the court has found the defendant in contempt. We note our action was only to enforce the existing Supreme Court orders and we trust now that no further action will be necessary.”
The judge in yesterday’s case, Justice Michael Pembroke, said he could “sympathise” with Harrison’s case but “I cannot excuse” nor condone her “wilful” breach of the court’s orders.
Harrison, of course, went public with her affair with Worner in December 2016. Seven successfully imposed a court-ordered gag in mid-2017 that prevented Harrison from speaking to media or using her social media accounts to divulge details of her time at Seven or her affair with the married Worner.
However, Harrison didn’t abide the ruling, giving frequent media interviews and regularly tweeting that she was a victim of a “boys’ club” culture at Seven. Given her dues, Harrison never spoke publicly about the extramarital affair.
Yesterday, Justice Pembroke said via a written statement: “Lawyers like to call it ‘contumacious disobedience’ but it simply means that (her) conduct was wilful.
“She was angry, perhaps understandably so, and felt that the court system had let her down and that the plaintiff had bullied her.
“The substance of the defendant’s complaints is well known.
“She said that Seven Network had signed her into agreements then did none of them; that she didn’t get the money and the deal fell apart.
“She then added, in language with which many might be tempted to agree, that ‘My case is a lesson in how many ways you can screw a girl. The boys’ club has shown that they are still – for now – in control, but we can change that.’”
Clearly not wanting any more bad press from the 18-month saga, Seven’s lawyers said yesterday they only wanted Harrison’s contempt actions noted in a declaration and did not want the court to order any punishment be it financial or jail time.
Justice Pembroke said the declaration would “represent a formal disapprobation of (Harrison’s) conduct in flouting the orders of the court,” while he added that any further misdoings by Harrison would be taken into account.
The scandal has plagued Worner and the network since it broke in late 2016. For his part, Worner avoided the public spotlight for much of the last 12 months and also forfeited $500,000 of his bonus over the affair.
He did appear at the Australian Tennis Open (which Seven is broadcast partner) in January, while in April he stepped out with his wife, Katrina, for at a black-tie event prior to the opening of the Commonwealth Games that were also broadcast on Seven.