A judge has hit out at controversial ex-senator David Leyonhjelm’s legal team as Senator Sarah Hanson-Young won a new defamation victory in court.
A judge has hit out at controversial ex-senator David Leyonhjelm’s legal team as Senator Sarah Hanson-Young won a new defamation victory in court.

Hanson-Young wins again as judge lectures Leyonhjelm lawyers

After a marathon court battle Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has been denied a gagging order on former Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm preventing him from repeating defamatory comments against her.

However, while she may have lost the battle, she more than won the war, with $125,000 in damages and interest awarded by the courts as well as her legal costs, which are believed to well exceed $100,000.

Ms Hanson-Young sought an order which permanently restrained Mr Leyonhjelm from repeating his claims that he had overheard the senator say "all men are rapists" during a heated Senate hearing in June 2018.

Mr Leyonhjelm then doubled down on his claims during radio and television interviews.

The comments were found to have been defamation in November last year following a trial.

Ms Hanson-Young's barrister Kieran Smark SC argued that Mr Leyonhjelm had "liked" and re-tweeted social media posts which repeated the claims directly after last years decision.

Justice Richard White in a judgment published on Friday said he was "disinclined" to give Mr Leyonhjelm's social media activity weight.

"The public interest in free speech … includes the entitlement of members of the community to comment on judgments of the court," he said.

Justice White ruled that he was not satisfied there was a risk that Mr Leyonhjelm would repeat his defamatory comments.

Ms Hanson-Young thanked the court as well as her friends and colleagues in a statement posted on social media.

"I hope my experience and the court's decision shows young women they have a right to be treated with respect, without intimidation and abuse," she said.

"Taking legal action like this costs an extraordinary amount of money, and I know most women are not in a position to do so. This win is for them.

"Standing up for myself against Mr Leyonhjelm's attacks has been important for me personally and professionally. Standing up is hard, asking for an apology is hard, but holding bullies to account is essential for a better and just society."

Mr Leyonhjelm was not the only person to feel the court's wrath throughout the court hearings.

In a judgment handed down on Friday Federal Court Justice Richard White labelled letters sent from Mr Leyonhjelm's legal team to Ms Hanson-Young's lawyers as "gratuitously offensive".

Former Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm. Picture: AAP Image/Peter Rae
Former Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm. Picture: AAP Image/Peter Rae

"It is not immediately apparent why solicitors acting with the respect and civility traditionally extended to fellow practitioners … would have chosen to express themselves in such a way," Justice White said.

"It was one thing for (Mr Leyonhjelm) to make the belittling statements concerning (Ms Hanson-Young) to which I referred in the primary judgment: it was another for his solicitors, bound by the professional conduct rules, to engage in conduct of that character."

In correspondence repeated in the judgment, Mr Leyonhjelm's lawyers questioned Ms Hanson-Young's financial circumstances and made reference to her using tax payer money to go on a whale watching trip.


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