Entertainment Celebrity Judge sets Geoffrey Rush’s total defamation payout at $2.9m

Judge sets Geoffrey Rush’s total defamation payout at $2.9m

The Daily Telegraph's defamation payout to Geoffrey Rush was calculated at $2.9 million. Photo: AAP
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Geoffrey Rush will be awarded nearly $2.9 million after winning his defamation case against The Daily Telegraph newspaper, a court has heard.

The Oscar-winner was last month awarded $850,000 in general and aggravated damages after winning the case against the Daily Telegraph‘s publisher Nationwide News, over stories alleging he behaved inappropriately towards a colleague.

The allegations related to the 2015-16 Sydney Theatre Company season of King Lear, but the newspaper’s truth defence failed following a three-week trial last year and it has since launched an appeal on the basis of apprehended bias.

During a hearing today, the Federal Court was told his total payout had been calculated at $2.87 million.

The additional award includes more than $1 million for past economic loss, $919,678 in future economic loss and $42,000 in interest.

Mr Rush’s barrister, Sue Chrystanthou, told the court there was an offer to settle for $50,000. Instead Nationwide News mounted a truth defence.

Geoffrey Rush on stage with Eryn-Jean Norvill during the production of King Lear, the encounter that started it all. Photo: STC

Ms Chrystanthou began pressing for an injunction at a hearing a fortnight ago, accusing the paper of attacking the court’s decision after it had vindicated her client.

Today she told the court where an “indefensible” defamation had been published, an injunction should follow.

Ms Chrystanthou said the Telegraph‘s reporting of the matter after last month’s decision went beyond fair and accurate reports of the proceedings and had repeated the allegations.

“This is a respondent that is irrational when it comes to my client, has shown disrespect for the court’s decision and cannot be trusted to abide by the court’s ruling as far as these imputations are concerned,” Mr Chrystanthou said.

The Telegraph‘s barrister, Tom Blackburn SC, argued the injunction would shut down legitimate criticism and discussion and have a “chilling effect” on future reporting of the #MeToo movement.

“The injunction sought is a blunt instrument because a legitimate comment which might convey any one of these meanings is criminalised,” he said.

“If my clients overstep the mark and defame Mr Rush again, he can sue again.”

Ms Chrystanthou dismissed the newspaper’s argument regarding #MeToo reporting as irrelevant.

“It is hysterical not in the sense of funny, but in the sense of hysteria,” she said.

“It effectively is one of those arguments a party needs to fall back on when they’ve got nothing else.

“How dare anyone come to a court and seek to stop the Murdoch empire from saying whatever it wants.”