Australia’s federal court has struck out large parts of News Corp’s truth defence in Geoffrey Rush’s defamation case.
The Oscar-winning actor, who is best-known for his roles in Pirates of the Caribbean and The King’s Speech, filed defamation proceedings in the Australian federal court last year, seeking damages from The Daily Telegraph after it published allegations that the actor behaved inappropriately towards a female cast member during a 2015 Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear.
In a press conference held last December, Rush said: “The Daily Telegraph has made false, pejorative and demeaning claims, splattering them with unrelenting bombast on its front pages. This has created irreparable damage to my reputation, has been extremely hurtful to my wife, my daughter and my son, and to my extended family as well as to many colleagues in the film, television and theatre industry.”
After denying the allegations, Rush voluntarily stepped down as President of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts and called the situation “intolerable” saying, “I must now seek vindication of my good name through the courts.”
The Telegraph defended its claims on the basis of truth and qualified privilege, alleging in court that the “touching” happened when Rush was carrying a female colleague across the stage, and the woman asked him to “stop it.”
The federal court has now ruled in favour of Rush and struck out New Corp’s truth defence because it lacked detail. Federal Court Judge Justice Michael Wigney found the allegations about the alleged touching were not “sufficiently specific and precise” and were “vague and imprecise.”
Justice Wigney also told the court: “The publisher is not permitted to undertake what is referred to colloquially as a 'fishing expedition' in the hope of finding something in support of its plea.”
After the decision was handed down, Rush's legal team pushed for a trial date to be set as soon as possible so their client “can be vindicated.”
It is not yet clear whether The Daily Telegraph's legal team will appeal the decision.
The matter will return to court next week.