End of the road for Gatto's legal appeal

Underworld veteran Mick Gatto's defamation case against the ABC has come to an abrupt end in Australia's highest court.

Gatto sued the public broadcaster for allegedly implying he was a hitman and murderer.

His initial bids in Victoria's Supreme Court and a Victorian Court of Appeal failed, but he vowed to fight "tooth and nail all the way".

The High Court declined to hear the case on Friday after Gatto sought special leave, ruling there was little prospect of success.

He has been ordered to pay the ABC's legal costs.

The case revolves around an article by ABC journalists Nino Bucci and Sarah Farnsworth, which Gatto argued implied he threatened to kill gangland lawyer turned police informer Nicola Gobbo.

But the ABC argued the article was "a straight court report" which a reasonable person would understand inferred innocence until proven guilty.

They argued the inclusion of the phrases "gave evidence", "court told" and "in an affidavit" supported this.

"It does not convey that threat (against Gobbo) ... was proven fact," barrister Matthew Collins told the High Court.

He added that while a court report may arouse public suspicion, it doesn't infer guilt.

Gatto's lawyers argued the article did not provide balance and made imputations against him on six occasions.

Barrister Guy Reynolds said the imputations were clear and "manifest injustice".

Mr Reynolds argued the article revolved around hearsay allegations, saying the ABC took the police statement as fact and did not offer balance by adequately providing Gatto's defence and denials.

"There is nothing going the other way," Mr Reynolds said.

"My client cannot get anyone to hop in the ring with him."

He said a hearsay statement of "Bill says John is a murderer" is the same as saying "John is a murderer".

But Mr Collins said equating the hearsay statement to a statement of fact was "demonstrably wrong".

Mr Reynolds said the High Court was the only court capable of resolving the issue after the appeals court didn't adequately examine the facts and only provided a two-page judgment.

But Mr Collins argued that, with the appeals court not providing opposition to the initial trial judgment, there was no reason for the case to continue.