Geoffrey Rush has won his defamation case against Nationwide News in the Federal Court of Australia.
He has been awarded $850,000 in aggravated damages so far, but damages for financial loss are yet to be determined.
In November 2017, the newspaper published front pages and articles alleging Rush behaved inappropriately towards a young actress during the Sydney Theatre Company’s 2015-16 production of King Lear.
Rush sued The Daily Telegraph and journalist Jonathon Moran following the article headlined “King Leer.”
Justice Michael Wigney found a newspaper article “King Leer” was enough to imply lecherous behaviour and sexual predator behaviour, including with photos alongside Don Burke, Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein.
He was not persuaded by Nationwide News and Jonathan Moran’s defence that the articles were substantially true. He said actress Eryn Jean Norvill’s evidence about harassment was not corroborated, was contradicted by others and sometimes implausible. He concluded she was subject to embellishment and exaggeration, but noted she had been “dragged into the spotlight” as a result of the article’s publication.
Justice Wigney described the article as an “recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalism journalism of the very worst kind” adding it was “calculated to damage.” He noted the article destroyed Rush’s reputation and awarded aggravated damages to Rush of $850,000.
Damages for economic loss will be determined later in May, but the judge agreed Rush could expect 50% salary after a period of 12 months.
Rush has been seeking $25 million in damages.
Daily Telegraph editor Ben English said the newspaper was “disappointed” with Justice Wigney’s findings and his dismissal of Norvill’s evidence.
“We disagree with his criticisms of her and she has our full support,” English said in a statement.
“We will now review the judgment.”
This post updates.