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Geoffrey Rush wins defamation case over inappropriate behaviour allegations
Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush has been awarded $850,000 in initial damages after winning his defamation case against Nationwide News over two articles published by The Daily Telegraph in 2017.
Delivering a damning judgement in the Federal Court yesterday, Justice Michael Wigney said Nationwide News and journalist Jonathan Moran failed to prove the imputations published in two articles in late 2017 were true.
Justice Wigney said in publishing unsubstantiated stories alleging Rush behaved inappropriately towards a female co-star during a 2015/16 production of King Lear, the newspaper produced "recklessly irresponsible pieces of sensationalist journalism of the very worst kind".
He said he would determine an amount of damages related to lost income for Rush - on top of the initial $850,000 award - at a later date.
Court documents lodged during the trial revealed Rush was seeking more than $25 million in damages.
In his judgement on Thursday, Justice Wigney found the actor at the centre of the accusations against Rush, Eryn Jean Norvill, was an unreliable witness, prone to "exaggeration and embellishment".
He said Norvill's evidence was not credible or reliable and contradicted by other members of the cast during the King Lear production, when the incidents reported by The Daily Telegraph were alleged to have occurred.
Rush's legal team argued the imputations conveyed by the articles included that he was a "pervert", a "sexual predator" and had engaged in "scandalously inappropriate" behaviour in the theatre.
Justice Wigney said The Daily Telegraph and Moran failed to adequately research the stories before they published.
Rush, who launched the proceedings last year, sat in court with his wife Jane Menelaus and showed little emotion as a lengthy summary of the judgement was read out.
Justice Wigney said it would have been better "for all concerned" if the issues arising from the articles had been dealt outside a defamation court.
As reported by the ABC, he advised "but they were not. And so it comes to this."
Outside Court, Rush thanked his wife and children for their support through the "harrowing" time.
He told media "there are no winners in this case ... it's been extremely distressing for everyone involved."
One man yelled "congratulations Geoffrey" as Rush spoke to the large media pack.
Speaking after the judgement, Norvill said she stood by everything she said during the trial, stating "I told the truth ... I know what happened. I was there."
Norvill also said the case had caused "hurt" for "everyone".
The three-week trial, held in October and November, captivated the often-packed public gallery as a stream of some of the country's best-known actors were called to give evidence.
Norvill told the court Rush made groping gestures towards her in a rehearsal and touched her breast during a harrowing scene where the king mourned over his daughter's dead body, among other allegations.
She made no formal complaint at the time and wanted her concerns to be kept confidential, but was called to give evidence when Nationwide News relied on a defence of truth.
Norvill did not speak to the newspaper for the stories.
Rush's barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, said his client was earning $128,000 a month before the stories, but had become too scared to work.
He even suggested the Oscar-winner may never work again.
Images: Rush and Norvill promoting King Lear (top, courtesy of the Sydney Theatre Company) and The Daily Telegraph's 'King Leer' cover of 30th November 2017 (below).
1st November 2018 - How did Geoffrey Rush’s alleged inappropriate behaviour end up in court?
17th July 2018 - Sydney Theatre Company wins in 10 categories at 2018 Helpmann Awards
1st June 2018 - Sydney Theatre Company records biggest ever deficit
8th January 2018 - MEAA looks to protect theatre workers from sexual harassment
17th December 2017 - Australian Major Performing Arts Group condemns harassment and bullying
3rd November 2017 - Australia’s state theatre companies condemn sexual harassment
9th February 2016 - Union accuses Sydney Theatre Company management of ‘ignoring staff safety’
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