Sophie Mirabella awarded $175,000 in damages over defamatory Benalla newspaper story
Former Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella has been awarded $175,000 in damages over a defamatory newspaper article which incorrectly claimed she pushed her political rival Cathy McGowan out of a photo opportunity.
Mrs Mirabella was seeking almost $390,000 to recognise the emotional toll of the Benalla Ensign story, which falsely stated she had pushed Ms McGowan at a media event at a Benalla nursing home during the 2016 federal election campaign.
That figure is the maximum payout for non-economic loss caused by defamation in Victoria.
But the newspaper had argued for a lesser amount, and today County Court Judge Michael Macnamara ruled it would have to pay $175,000.
After a six-day trial held in Wangaratta, a jury took less than an hour to find the Benalla Ensign had defamed Mrs Mirabella, who had been recontesting the north-east Victorian seat of Indi at the time.
She lost the seat to Ms McGowan in 2013.
The newspaper admitted Mrs Mirabella had not pushed Ms McGowan and it had got the story wrong, but denied it was defamatory.
Instead, it claimed Mrs Mirabella had pushed now-Federal Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, to prevent him from taking a photo with Ms McGowan and therefore the meaning of the article remained the same.
More to come.