News articles ‘destroyed’ Ben Roberts-Smith’s reputation, barrister says

  • News articles ‘destroyed’ Ben Roberts-Smith’s reputation, barrister says

News articles ‘destroyed’ Ben Roberts-Smith’s reputation, barrister says

The court has previously heard that Nine withdrew an allegation that, on the same mission, Mr Roberts-Smith had swum across the Helmand River and unlawfully killed an unarmed Afghan male.

His accusers have also assembled at the Federal Court as they try to prove on the balance of probabilities that Mr Roberts-Smith was involved in six murders during Australia's longest war.

Sydney Morning Herald editor Lisa Davies and Nine's Executive Editor of Australian Metro Publishing James Chessell leave Federal Court. It has unsurprisingly been dubbed the "trial of the century". The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), one of the defendants in the lawsuit, noted on Saturday that his employer Kerry Stokes is "firmly in the war veteran's corner, bankrolling the legal action with a loan to Roberts-Smith from Stokes' private investment company Australian Capital Equity".

Mr Roberts-Smith denies the allegations and the media companies are relying on a truth defence.

The 42-year-old Victoria Cross recipient is set to step into the witness box to defend his reputation this week.

Mr Roberts-Smith's barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, told the court it was a case about "courage, devotion to duty, self sacrifice" versus "corrosive jealousy, cowardice and lies" led by "bitter people".

Mr Roberts-Smith was awarded the country's top military honour for "selfless actions in circumstances of great peril" while hunting a senior Taliban commander at Tizak in June 2010.

He said he was a suspected insurgent and was shot twice.

Mr Roberts-Smith's ex-wife Emma has "flipped" and is giving evidence for Nine Entertainment.

Roberts-Smith's legal strategy includes what the Australian Financial Review (AFR) characterized on Monday as the "Breaker Morant defense", a reference to Lt. Harry Morant, a famed Australian soldier accused of war crimes during Australia's first - and notoriously brutal - counterinsurgency campaign during the Boer War.

"Being thought of as a failure as a soldier has a corrosive effect on a person", McClintock said.

His parents Len and Sue Roberts-Smith have come to Sydney to publicly support their son.

The court was told Mr Roberts-Smith will likely take the stand on Wednesday.

'The allegations have not only destroyed Ben's life, but have affected us every day for the last several years, ' the couple said in a statement.

"We never expected that our son would be unfairly attacked in this manner after he served his country in Afghanistan with distinction and risked his life". He is seeking damages in Australia's Federal Court from Nine Entertainment Co. and three journalists.

Person 10, the court heard, fired bursts of his machine gun but would not answer when Mr Roberts-Smith asked what he was shooting at.

The rest of the day's proceedings will be heard in closed court as Mr McClintock deals with matters the subject of national security concerns.

Australia's military and police are both investigating numerous war crimes alleged to have been committed by members of elite SAS soldiers in Afghanistan.

Nine also claimed Mr Roberts-Smith was at the end of a mission in the town of Darwan when he kicked the handcuffed shepherd off a small cliff and ordered another soldier to execute the injured man.

The trial is expected to run for up to 10 weeks.

Character witnesses will then testify on his behalf.

"Some may call it tall poppy syndrome, others ... jealousy", Mr McClintock said.

Roberts-Smith was also awarded a Medal for Gallantry for his actions as a scout and sniper while under heavy fire from a much larger enemy force in 2006.

He also described a claim of domestic violence against his client as "inordinately damaging" to Mr Roberts-Smith.

His lawyers fear she may have shared some of that information with Nine.

About 60 witnesses are expected to be called including local soldiers and some from overseas.

Person 1 pointed his gun at Mr Roberts-Smith and screamed "I'm a friendly!", Mr McClintock said, before another soldier stepped in front of the gun and woke Person 1 up.