Geoffrey Rush has been successful in his attempt to stop parts of The Daily Telegraph‘s defence being heard when his defamation case against the newspaper goes to trial.
The actor launched legal proceedings against the newspaper’s owner Nationwide News Pty Ltd after it published articles alleging he engaged in inappropriate behaviour while performing in a 2015 Sydney Theatre Company (STC) production.
The Oscar-winner alleges the articles, which went to print late last year, defame him.
Ahead of the defamation case hearing, Rush’s legal team challenged two parts of the newspaper’s defence case and moved to have them struck out.
The defence’s case rests on the allegations being substantially true and their publishing was reasonable in the circumstances.
Federal Court Judge Justice Michael Wigney found the allegations were not “sufficiently specific and precise” and were “vague and imprecise”.
“Inadequate and insufficient details are given about the alleged touching,” Justice Wigney told the Federal Court in Sydney on Tuesday.
“What part of Mr Rush relevantly touched the actress? And what part of the actress’ body was touched?”
Justice denies ‘fishing expedition’
The Daily Telegraph reported a complaint had been made against Rush during a STC production of King Lear.
Justice Wigney also ruled Nationwide News’ subpoena to the STC, which required it to produce documents relating to complaint be set aside.
“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,” Justice Wigney told the court.
“It should not be permitted to use the court’s compulsory processes to obtain information and evidence so as to establish a defence.”
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 newspaper’s legal team will appeal the decision.
Rush was not in court.