Sarah Hanson-Young wins defamation case

 

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has been awarded $120,000 in non-economic damages after winning a defamation lawsuit against former senator David Leyonhjelm.

Senator Hanson-Young has said she will donate the money to charity.

Lawyers for both parties will be heard in the coming weeks on whether interest will be applied to the penalty, and whether the South Australian senator will also be awarded costs.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young becomes emotional as she speaks to media after winning her defamation case against former senator David Leyonhjelm. Picture: AAP / Lukas Coch
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young becomes emotional as she speaks to media after winning her defamation case against former senator David Leyonhjelm. Picture: AAP / Lukas Coch

 

A statement of claim filed in the Federal Court and showed Senator Hanson-Young's defamation claims stemmed from comments Mr Leyonhjelm made in four different forums, including Facebook, Sky News, 3AW radio and ABC's 7.30 program.

The comments came after a heated exchange in the Senate where Mr Leyonhjelm, then a Liberal Democrat senator, told Senator Hanson-Young to "stop shagging men".

Senator Hanson-Young retorted by calling Mr Leyonhjelm a creep.

Mr Leyonhjelm claimed that Senator Hanson-Young had yelled out in parliament that all men were rapists.

After the ruling Senator Hanson-Young said in a statement that taking legal action "was a hard decision to make".

"All I ever wanted was for Mr Leyonhjelm to apologise for his hurtful remarks and bad behaviour. He refused," she said.

"The court's decision today has vindicated my decision to stand up and call it out.

"The court found that Mr Leyonhjelm was actuated by malice with the intention of publicly shaming me.

Former Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm has lost his defamation case against Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. Picture: AAP / Peter Rae
Former Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm has lost his defamation case against Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. Picture: AAP / Peter Rae

 

"No woman deserves to be bullied and harassed in her workplace - not on the shop floor, in the office, in the factory or in the parliament."

Her lawyers argued that Senator Leyonhjelm's comments had been made to a "mass audience, which he knew included the applicant's child and family".

Senator Hanson-Young's barrister Kieran Smark SC argued Mr Leyonhjelm had defamed his client by claiming she had said that all men are rapists.

He said the claims made Senator Hanson-Young look like a hypocrite and a misandrist, someone who despises men.

Mr Leyonhjelm tried to have the case stayed last year but was refused by a Federal Court judge.

In his defence Mr Leyonhjelm initially claimed that his words were honest opinion and fair comment on a matter of public interest.

However his barrister Anthony Morris QC dropped those defences at trial and focused on a defence of qualified privilege.

Mr Morris said that even if there was a defamatory meaning in Mr Leyonhjelm's words then Senator Hanson-Young should still only be awarded "nominal" damages.

Senator Hanson-Young has previously said that her preference would be for an apology, an option which was supported by then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who also called for Mr Leyonhjelm to apologise.

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