In a damning judgement in the Federal Court, Justice Michael Wigney said Nationwide News and journalist Jonathan Moran failed to prove the imputations published in two articles in late 2017 were true.
Justice Wigney said in publishing unsubstantiated stories alleging Mr Rush behaved inappropriately towards a female co-star during a 2015-16 production of King Lear, the newspaper produced “recklessly irresponsible pieces of sensationalist journalism of the very worst kind”. The evidence was “solidly against” the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper and Rush’s King Lear co-star, Eryn Jean Norvill, who was revealed after the November 2017 reports to be the subject of the allegations against Rush. Wigney said he was “acutely conscious of and had regard to the difficulties and disadvantages that are often encountered by complainants in cases involving allegations of sexual harassment” and that Norvill had “essentially been dragged into the spotlight” by Moran. However, he ultimately rejected the evidence of Norvill and fellow actor Mark Leonard Winter, instead accepting that of the high-profile actors and directors who spoke in defence of Rush. He said Norvill’s evidence was “not only uncorroborated but contradicted by … the evidence of Rush, [director Neil] Armfield, [and cast members Robyn] Nevin and [Helen] Buday.”Norvill closed her eyes as the judge said she was a witness “prone to exaggeration and embellishment”.
‘I told the truth’
Ms Norvill said she stood by everything she said during the trial.
“I told the truth,” she said outside court.
“I know what happened. I was there.”
Ms Norvill also said the case had caused “hurt” for “everyone”.
“I would have been content to receive a simple apology and a promise to do better, without any of this.”
She made no formal complaint at the time and wanted her concerns to be kept confidential, but was called to give evidence when Nationwide News relied on a defence of truth. Mr Rush’s barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, said his client was earning $128,000 a month before the stories, but had become too scared to work. He even suggested the Oscar-winner may never work again.
Mr McClintock took swipes at the Australian media and said the case highlighted a “serious problem” with journalism because reporters “took sides” and “made judgments”.
Tom Blackburn, who represented The Daily Telegraph, argued there was a difference between “inappropriate behaviour” and “pervert” or “sexual predator”.