Ben Roberts-Smith defamation trial to begin

The high-profile defamation case of Australia’s most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith is due to begin with his barrister outlining the bitterly-contested lawsuit.

The Victoria Cross recipient launched his case in 2018 over media reports he says accused him of murder during his 2009 to 2012 tour of Afghanistan.

Mr Roberts-Smith is suing the publishers of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times over articles alleging he committed war crimes in Afghanistan and assaulted a woman in Canberra.

The war hero denies all claims made against him, while Nine – the papers’ owners – has put forward a truth defence.

On Monday, Justice Anthony Besanko is due to begin hearing the Federal Court action, estimated to last up to 10 weeks.

Mr Roberts-Smith’s barrister Bruce McClintock SC is expected to give a lengthy opening address before calling his client as the first witness.

The former special forces corporal has taken leave from his general manager position of Channel Seven in Queensland while his defamation case is afoot.

His former wife Emma Roberts, who was initially expected to give evidence on his behalf, is instead due to be a witness for Nine.

Her ex-husband had threatened to sue her if she spoke to Nine’s lawyers, a pre-trial hearing was told.

Subpoenas have been issued over transcripts of special forces soldiers’ police interviews regarding potential war crimes and information held by the defence department.

Witnesses will include local soldiers and some from overseas.


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