Seven to fight defamation costs in Ben Roberts-Smith case

Parties were back in court today over costs related to high profile defamation case.

Seven network is expected to fight an application for third-party costs in relation to Nine newspapers’ articles around war veteran and former Seven executive, Ben Roberts-Smith.

Earlier this month the Federal Court ruled some of the imputations put forward across six articles by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times were found to be substantially true.

The case is expected to have cost $25 million in legal fees.

In the Federal Court today it was revealed Roberts-Smith had agreed to pay the costs of the failed case in an indemnity basis from 2020.

“Mr Roberts-Smith accepts he should pay costs of the proceedings … but it remains in dispute whether he pays prior to March 17, 2020, on an indemnity basis,” Nine’s barrister, Nicholas Owens SC said.

Indemnity costs cover a higher proportion of the successful party’s legal costs than a standard costs order, and are awarded in exceptional circumstances.

Seven West Media and Chairman Kerry Stokes, are expected to fight the application after funding the case in its early days before it was transferred to a loan from Australian Capital Equity, which Mr Stokes also owns.

The court heard ACE and Seven Network Operations Limited disputed the claim that they should be liable for any of Nine’s legal costs.

The newspapers have asked the Seven Network to pay costs up to June 23, 2020, when the loan agreement was in place, and then ACE to pay the costs from June 24, 2020.

Roberts-Smith’s barrister, Arthur Moses, SC, asked for the evidence about costs to be delayed until after the deadline for an appeal expired on July 12.

Roberts-Smith resigned as General Manager of Seven Queensland the day after the court found the newspapers had proved three murders that were the subject of the stories and another one besides, as well as the act of bullying. An allegation of domestic violence was not proven.

Source: The Australian, The Age