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Australia Tempers flare in Roberts-Smith trial as lockdown bites and disrupts

15:42  28 july  2021
15:42  28 july  2021 Source:   crikey.com.au

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Seven and a half weeks into the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation hearing, tempers are flaring. The continual delays in the trial caused by the Sydney lockdown are starting to wear down all participants.

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Crikey

No one has yet uttered the legal maxim “justice delayed is justice denied”, but they will — this case could drag out for months.

Former SAS soldier Roberts-Smith is suing The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times over a series of reports which he says depicted him as a war criminal and a murderer. He denies all allegations, and the newspapers are relying on the defence of truth.

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a woman lying on a bed © Provided by Crikey

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This morning there was a case management hearing in the Federal Court largely concerning the timetable for SAS witnesses — most of whom, because they are based in WA, would be subject to the restrictions of the Sydney lockdown. Most of this group have indicated they do not want to travel to NSW and be subject to quarantine.

This morning Roberts-Smith’s counsel Arthur Moses SC complained in strong terms about the delays.

“My client has been subjected to serious allegations, thrown around like confetti, for some years,” he said. “The least these witnesses can do if they give evidence against him is comply with the subpoena or give a reason why they can’t.”

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Moses said that having to do a 14-day quarantine may be the price they paid for attending in person.

“My client suffers prejudice every day … because the respondents continue publishing articles, as late as yesterday, making all sorts of assertions against him.

“He cannot continue a situation where he’s being used as a human pinata by the respondents. There has to be a day of reckoning in terms of these allegations. They have to be established or proven to be untrue.”

Yesterday the court heard from an Afghan witness, Mohammed Hanifa Fatih, who said he and his family’s living expenses were being met by the newspapers.

The hearing is currently in closed court and will resume shortly.

The post Tempers flare in Roberts-Smith trial as lockdown bites and disrupts appeared first on Crikey.

Australia's pandemic focus shifts north as south-east Queensland joins Sydney in lockdown .
In the lead-up to the weekend, the nation's pandemic focus was almost solely on New South Wales. But a day after just a single case was recorded in Brisbane, the entire south-east of Queensland was again in lockdown.In the midst of an extended lockdown on the back of an outbreak of the delta variant, the state had reported a record number of new cases on Thursday, with 239 cases confirmed.

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