Ben Roberts-Smith to appeal defamation lawsuit loss

Ben Roberts-Smith

The appeal was filed on Tuesday, two days before the deadline

Ben Roberts-Smith has launched an appeal after losing his war crimes defamation trial against Nine Newspapers last month. The appeal was filed on Tuesday, two days before the deadline.

In a statement, James Chessell, Nine’s managing director, publishing, said “We believe the Federal Court’s judgment is comprehensive and categorical. The appeal will be opposed. We will always stand up for journalism that is in the public interest.” 

The move comes after Roberts-Smith had agreed to pay Nine’s legal costs. 

“Mr Roberts-Smith accepts he should pay costs of the proceedings … but it remains in dispute whether he pays prior to March 17, 2020, on an indemnity basis,” Nine’s barrister, Nicholas Owens SC said in court in June. 

March 17, 2020 was the date that Roberts-Smith rejected a settlement offer from Nine.

The Australian has been reporting, however, that Seven West chairman, Kerry Stokes, is disputing his liability. When The Australian reached out for comment, a spokesman for Stokes declined to comment.

While no exact number has been made public, the legal bill is being reported to be somewhere between $25m and $35m.  

See Also: Kerry Stokes to fight legal costs as Ben Roberts-Smith agrees to pay

Ben Roberts-Smith, a Victoria Cross recipient and former SAS soldier, had been suing the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Canberra Times in regard to a series of 2018 articles that he says defamed him. As well as the papers themselves, Roberts-Smith has taken action against journalists Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters, and former journalist David Wroe. The articles alleged that he had committed murder and other war crimes during his deployment in Afghanistan.

Justice Anthony Besanko found in his final judgement that Roberts-Smith was “not an honest and reliable witness,” and that he had “motives to lie” when presenting his side to the court.

A date for the appeal to be heard has not been announced. 

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