Lauded Australian veteran: Jealousy fueled Afghan defamation

Cornelia Mascio
Giugno 8, 2021

"On the other hand, it's a case about dishonesty, corrosive journalism, cowardice and lies ... led by bitter people, jealous of [Roberts-Smith's] courage and success, aided by credulous journalists", said his barrister Bruce McClintock, as quoted by the UK Guardian on Monday.

Mr Roberts-Smith, a former Special Air Service trooper awarded the Victoria Cross, is suing The Sydney Morning Herald over a story claiming he punched the woman, when he contends she drunkenly fell down the stairs.

Ben Roberts-Smith left the army in 2013 and is now the general manager of the Seven Network, a media company, in Brisbane and regional Queensland.

Roberts-Smith's legal strategy includes what the Australian Financial Review (AFR) characterized on Monday as the "Breaker Morant defense", a reference to Lt. Harry Morant, a famed Australian soldier accused of war crimes during Australia's first - and notoriously brutal - counterinsurgency campaign during the Boer War.

The barrister said Mr Roberts-Smith holds his fellow veterans in high regard, but he was subjected to "tall poppy syndrome" as his reputation increased.

The court heard the evidence would cover five key battlefield incidents, which took place between April 2009 and November 2012. He did not say whether Roberts-Smith was a suspect.

"Allowances should be made ... for men who have engaged in the extremity of armed combat to relax and decompress", he said.

"Lost limbs and prosthetic limbs are not uncommon", he said.

The war hero's barrister has also rejected a claim of domestic violence against his client, labelling it a fabrication and insisting that Mr Roberts-Smith abhors violence against women.

Mr Roberts-Smith denies all claims against him and is seeking aggravated damages, while the publishers have put forward a truth defence.

In a statement issued on Sunday afternoon, the extremely private Mr and Mrs Roberts-Smith labelled the allegations against their son "false" while also for the first time telling of the impact on them and their son.

AFR suggested comparisons with the Morant case are apt because the government is investigating Roberts-Smith and other Australian soldiers for their actions in Afghanistan, so the outcome of his defamation case against the media could have significant repercussions on any future prosecution.

Person 17 became so intoxicated at the function she fell down a set of stairs leading to an underground auto park and suffered seriously injuries to her face, Mr McClintock said.

The paper alleges that in response to Person 17 saying, "my head hurts", Mr Roberts-Smith had said, "It's going to hurt more" or "I'll show you what hurt is" and punched her in the left eye.

He also denied his client ever "blooded" soldiers, or gloated about killing an adolescent Afghan after stopping a group of men travelling in a Toyota Hilux in 2012.

Mr McClintock described as "ridiculous" claims Mr Roberts-Smith said of the alleged incident "it was the most handsome thing I've ever seen".

"It's like Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now as Colonel Kilgore on ice", Mr McClintock said.

"What is alleged, simply did not occur".

"A man with a deservedly high reputation for courage, skill and decency", he said.

Nine withdrew the allegation it was unlawful just one month before the trial without an apology, Mr McClintock said.

Person 10, the court heard, fired bursts of his machine gun but would not answer when Mr Roberts-Smith asked what he was shooting at.

Much of Tuesday's proceedings before Justice Anthony Besanko are likely to be closed to the public due to national security evidence, the court heard.

Altre relazioniGrafFiotech

Discuti questo articolo

Segui i nostri GIORNALE