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Tony Whitlam, ABC settle defamation suit

AAP logoAAP 8/11/2016

Former Federal Court judge Tony Whitlam has settled a defamation suit against the ABC over a Four Corners report about pedophile priest John Farrell.

Mr Whitlam, son of former prime minister Gough Whitlam, had accused the public broadcaster of portraying him as a "stooge" who took money from the Catholic Church to rig an inquiry and cover up Farrell's crimes.

A Federal Court order on Tuesday confirmed the two parties had reached a settlement and that a previous referral to mediation would be dismissed.

Mr Whitlam, 72, lodged the defamation suit in response to the Four Corners report broadcast in May when Farrell was jailed for 29 years for 79 child sex offences.

In his statement of claim he said the ABC defamed him by suggesting he deliberately concealed Farrell's sexual assaults and accepted money to cover up child abuse by other priests.

The broadcaster also painted Mr Whitlam as someone who, under the guise of carrying out an inquiry into child abuse, conducted a "sham" investigation that concealed those crimes, the claim said.

Mr Whitlam, a QC, was engaged by the Armidale Catholic diocese in Sydney in 2012 to conduct an inquiry into Farrell after a Four Corners report accused the priest of child abuse.

In the defamation suit, the former judge said the ABC was "malicious" in its reporting and "arrogant" in its refusal to apologise, while journalist Andy Park knew the suggestions about Mr Whitlam were false.

He sought damages and costs for the personal and reputational harm the report inflicted.

"His business, personal and professional reputation has been and will be brought into public disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt," the claim said.

Farrell was jailed for at least 18 years for sexual offences against a dozen children in Moree and Tamworth in NSW in the 1980s.

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