Actor Geoffrey Rush, who sued The Daily Telegraph in a sexual harassment defamation suit, emerged victorious, winning a minimum of USD 610,000 in damages from the Australian tabloid.
Daily Telegraph alleged the actor had engaged in inappropriate behaviour towards co-star Eryn Jean Norvill during a production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
“(There are) no winners in this case. It was extremely distressing for everyone involved,” Rush told reporters, adding he would make no further comment.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Australian Federal Court Justice Michael Wigney said on Thursday that the Telegraph had defamed the Australian actor and not proved its truth defence.
Justice Wigney chastised News Corp’s Sydney-based newspaper and journalist over reports that accused Rush, 67, of inappropriate behaviour towards Norvill.
“This was, in all the circumstances, a recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of the very worst kind. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was calculated to damage,” the judge said.
He said The Daily Telegraph and reporter Jonathan Moran failed to adequately research the stories before they published.
Justice Wigney said that Rush’s accuser, Norvill was not a “credible or reliable witness and was “prone to exaggeration and embellishment”.
Initially, he introduced his findings saying the case, which had evolved against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, was “sad and unfortunate”.
Rush’s legal team said the newspaper had implied he is a “pervert”, a “sexual predator” and “committed sexual assault”. He had Rush denied any wrongdoing and described the accusations as “slurs” and “hyperbole”.
Those imputations were central to the judge’s decision, with the Oscar winner able to prove these implications were conveyed by the articles but were not true. During the trial, Norvill alleged that Rush made “groping gestures in the air with two cupped hands” that simulated “fondling” her breasts during rehearsals. The trial lasted 13 days late last year.