ABC to pay ex-soldier defamation case costs

The former special forces commando will have his legal costs paid by ABC, in addition to more than $400,000 he received in damages after the broadcaster removed the defamatory articles.

Heston Russell has sued ABC and two investigative journalists for defamation over stories published in 2020 and 2021 that he said alleged he was being investigated for shooting an unarmed inmate.

Mr. Russell was awarded $390,000 in damages, which is $412,315.15 percent.

After his victory, Mr Russell's barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC told the court that her client would seek reimbursement of costs from the ABC after her client offered to settle the case for $99,000 and remove the articles on September 12, 2022. This was not accepted. ABC.

On Tuesday, Mr Justice Lee told the court that the ABC had decided that Mr Russell had made a more favorable decision than the terms of the offer.

“They have told me that they expressly agree to pay his costs on an ordinary basis until 11am on September 14, 2022, and on an indemnity basis thereafter,” Justice Lee said.

Because the order was agreed upon by both parties, the judge granted it, despite saying he would have made a different order if it was up to him.

“I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Russell willfully perjured the court. It is obvious, but it should be noted that it is fundamental to the fair resolution of disputes that the witness tells the truth,” said Justice Lee.

“In the absence of the respondents' consent, I would have concluded that I would have acted in a manner that furthered the overarching purpose of allowing Mr Russell any of his costs relating to the subject matter and timing of his false evidence. expenses incurred by the defendants in the trial of this matter.'

Stories Mr Russell claimed criticized him, written and produced by journalists Mark Willas and Josh Robertson, were broadcast on television, radio and online in October 2020 and more than a year later on 19 November 2021.

Judge Michael Lee found the national broadcaster had failed to prove the articles were in the public interest and caused serious harm to the ex-soldier.

Justice Lee told the court that had it not been agreed by both parties, he would have reduced the total costs Mr Russell would have to pay.

It ordered the ABC to pay Mr Russell's costs on an ordinary basis until September 12, 2022 and on an indemnity basis thereafter.

NCA NewsWire understands that the costs of the proceedings have exceeded $1.5 million for both parties.

Justice Lee asked both parties to provide bills and invoices to the court so he could make a formal order on the amount of costs to be paid to Mr Russell.

During the nine-day trial in July and August, the court was told the allegations in the now-deleted articles came from a US marine called “Josh” who contacted Mr Willas while working with Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

The witness has since apologized to Mr Russell for his involvement in the case.

Justice Lee, in his judgment, found he had “no doubt” Mr Willas believed it was in the public interest to publish the articles.

But looking at his conduct as a whole, the judge said Mr Willas' conviction was “unreasonable in the circumstances” and found the journalist had not established a public interest defense.

It found that Mr Robertson had not acted reasonably in seeking a response from Mr Russell before the November article was published because he had “not obtained” all the information he could have “reasonably obtained”.

After the result, Mr Russell told media outside court that the ABC had “finally exposed the false allegations against Australian veterans”.

“The federal court decided that it was not unreasonable for the commandos of the November platoon to be charged with atrocious war crimes,” he said.

He said he was grateful for the court's “expert decision,” which came just a year after the trial began.