Roberts-Smith reports to remain secret | Crookwell Gazette

Media companies being sued by Ben Roberts-Smith will not get their fingers in a freelance journalist’s investigation report on “all allegations and rumors” about the decorated ex-soldier.

Ross Coulthart’s 2018 report, which was delivered to Seven West Media President Kerry Stokes, was primarily prepared for legal advice, the federal court ruled Tuesday.

Sir. Roberts-Smith approved the preparation of the report at a time when there was a real prospect that he could be summoned to testify at a war crime investigation.

“What was approved to be done had to be confidential,” Judge Wendy Abraham said.

Sir. Roberts-Smith, who became a Seven director after leaving the special forces, understood that the report should go to his lawyers to help them give him legal advice and agreed that the report went to Mr. Stokes and Sevens commercial director Bruce McWilliam. on the basis that they supported him financially “.

Judge Abraham also affirmed privilege claims on draft media statements sent by Coulthart to Mr. Roberts-Smith’s attorneys for legal advice.

Coulthart, a Gold Walkley-winning journalist and PR consultant, wrote the confidential report days after the three news outlets published allegations about Mr Roberts-Smith.

Lawyers for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times and The Age had claimed the report was controlled by Mr McWilliam, not the war hero.

They pointed out that it was never shown to Mr Roberts-Smith or another of his senior lawyers, Bruce McClintock SC.

But the judge rejected each of these allegations, saying it should be “uncontroversial” Mr. Roberts-Smith did not receive the report created for his attorneys.

There was also no evidence that Mr McClintock was involved in the case in June 2018.

In the June 2018 article, which identified the decorated former Special Forces soldier by nickname, he claimed he was being investigated by a war crime investigation for involvement in the alleged murder of an Afghan villager.

He launched defamation action shortly after, claiming that the news media mistakenly portrayed him as a criminal who violated the moral and legal rules of military engagement during his deployment in Afghanistan with SAS.

The war hero also sues over a report that he assaulted a woman in Canberra.

The newspapers run a truth defense.

A trial began in June but was halted after Sydney was locked up. It is set to resume in 2022.

Australian Associated Press

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