Seven Network Battles to Prevent Disclosure in Roberts-Smith Defamation Case

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Veteran soldier Ben Roberts-Smith’s benefactors, the Seven Network and billionaire Kerry Stokes, are forging ahead with their counteraction of a directive to disclose thousands of documents that evidences their involvement in Roberts-Smith’s unsuccessful defamation lawsuit.

Earlier this year, Federal Court Justice Anthony Besanko passed judgment on several allegations against Mr. Roberts-Smith that were presented via half a dozen publications by outlets such as The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Canberra Times. Besanko ultimately concluded that a significant portion of the allegations were valid, leading to the end of the trial.

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These news outlets had reported allegations of war crimes committed by Roberts-Smith – a trial that is now believed to have incurred legal expenses well above $25 million.

Justice Besanko, in July, shot down an attempt from the Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes, his private company Australian Capital Equity (ACE), Seven Network commercial director Bruce McWilliam, and law firms Herbert Smith Freehills and Mark O’Brien Legal to discard the subpoenas.

This ruling was questioned by Justice Nye Perram, as Seven Network has shown its intention to reverse the judgment and prevent the document handover due to potential “commercial harm in giving them to its direct competitor”.

On Monday, Justice Perram sided with Seven and accepted the request for leave to appeal. This grants Seven the right to oppose the requirement for revealing the documents.

Justin Williams SC, who represents Seven, Mr. Stokes and Mr. McWilliam, argued in court that providing the requested documents would be an alarming invasion into the corporation’s confidential dealings.

Initially, the defamation trial was bankrolled by the Seven Network, which was Roberts-Smith’s employer prior to reaching a loan agreement with Mr. Stokes’ private company, ACE.

Subpoenas were dispatched to all involved parties including Nine Newspapers to provide communication records between the financial sponsors and the attorneys, and demonstrate their participation in the trial and whether they manipulated the proceedings.

Nine aims to evaluate documents like emails and text messages between Seven, Roberts-Smith, and his legal representatives.

Williams conceded in court that the soldier’s exclusive source of funding was one of his clients. However, he stated that none of the subpoenas addressed these issues.

Defending his clients and the respondents as rival media entities, Williams induced fears over the potential interest and value these subpoenaed documents could provide to Nine Newspapers, and the consequential commercial harm that could arise from their exposure.

Over 8650 emails were unearthed in a search of Mr McWilliam’s Seven Network emails, dating from the commencement of the case in 2018 to 2023, indicating communication between him and attorneys representing Roberts-Smith.

Nicholas Owens SC, speaking for Nine Newspapers, suggested to the court a compromise where only attorneys may access the documents.

As the dust settles on this high stakes legal battle, it’s interesting to see how much one would gamble in defense of their integrity. And speaking of gambling, here at West Island Blog, we have compiled a list of the top online casinos for your perusal. We’ve gone the extra mile to ensure that your online casino experience is secure and enjoyable. Place your bets on us and enjoy the ultimate experience. So, why not leave the high-stakes courtroom drama behind and start placing your bets in an electrifying casino atmosphere?

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.