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Geoffrey Rush wins £464,000 in defamation case as judge calls ‘grope’ accuser unreliable

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 11/04/2019 Roger Maynard
Geoffrey Rush wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Local News RSS EN-GB

Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush was today awarded nearly half a million pounds after a court ruled he was defamed by Australian newspaper reports that he acted inappropriately towards an actress.

Lawyers for the 67-year-old star claimed articles in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph suggested that he was a “pervert,” a “sexual predator” and had engaged in “scandalously inappropriate” behaviour during a production of King Lear.

His co-star, Eryn Jean Norvill, who had not been named in the original report in 2017, told Sydney’s Federal Court that Rush had deliberately stroked the side of her breast while her character was lying dead on stage.

She also alleged that he made groping gestures towards her during rehearsals and occasionally called her yummy. However Justice Michael Wigney today found that Ms Norvill was an unreliable witness and prone to “exaggeration”.

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He also said her evidence had been contradicted by other members of the cast.

a group of people posing for the camera: Eryn Jean Norvill speaks to the media after the three-week defamation trial concluded (Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Eryn Jean Norvill speaks to the media after the three-week defamation trial concluded (Getty Images)

Leaving court, the actor said he was satisfied with the result but added: “There are no winners in this case. It has been extremely distressing for everyone involved.”

Justice Wigney agreed with Rush, who argued that the published stories had led to “hatred, ridicule and contempt”, causing damage to his reputation and financial loss running into millions of dollars.

“This was a recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of the very worst kind,” he added.

The allegations were linked to a production of King Lear in Sydney during the 2015-16 season.

Geoffrey Rush holding a pair of people posing for the camera: Rush won a defamation case against an Australian newspaper that accused him of sexual misconduct (EPA) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Rush won a defamation case against an Australian newspaper that accused him of sexual misconduct (EPA)

A front-page story depicting a portrait of the actor as King Lear with the headline “King Leer” had been “striking if not somewhat haunting”, the judge said.

During the earlier trial Rush claimed that a text message he had sent to Norvill was a joke.

Accompanied by a winking emoji, he had written: “I was thinking of you, as I do, more than is socially appropriate.”

The final bill for damages against Nationwide News, the publisher of the Daily Telegraph, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, could be much higher than the £464,000 when compensation for lost earnings is factored in to the total.

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