SOPHIE MIRABELLA DEFAMATION COURT
Former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella feels vindicated by her $175,000 defamation win and hopes it serves as a "sober lesson" to the media.
Ms Mirabella successfully sued Victorian newspaper the Benalla Ensign and its editor Libby Price over an article that claimed she had pushed rival politician Cathy McGowan during a photo opportunity.
The April 2016 article, titled Awkward Encounter, was published before a federal election in which Ms Mirabella had hoped to win back the seat of Indi from the incumbent Ms McGowan.
Ms Mirabella, 49, was awarded $175,000 in damages on Wednesday after a County Court jury last month found she was defamed by the regional newspaper.
The former federal MP lauded the "great judgment" and "sensible decision" of Judge Michael Macnamara, who took into account the fact the article had been published extensively online, compounding the damage.
"Whether you're a politician or whether you're a member of the public, you should not be subjected to media behaviour that I was subjected to," Ms Mirabella told reporters outside court in Melbourne, following her win.
"Perhaps this is a sober lesson to them regarding the manner in which they go about collecting information for their stories and behaving afterwards."
The damages awarded was less than half the maximum available for non-economic loss for defamation in Victoria, which is $389,500.
Judge Macnamara said the push, which Ms Mirabella was wrongly portrayed as carrying out, was not a "very significant" act, such as a bashing.
But the reputational damage was not so minor, given the circumstances.
"This report reinforced a narrative advanced by her political opponent that Mrs Mirabella was 'unpleasant, not a nice person, aggressive'," the judge said, in his ruling.
No one at the Benalla Ensign contacted Ms Mirabella for comment before the article was published, and she rejected the pushing claim.
Months later, the newspaper admitted the push did not occur and apologised.
But by then the election had passed and Ms Mirabella said the character damage was done.
So she sued, and a six-person jury found in her favour earlier this month, after a trial in Wangaratta.
Ms Mirabella said she felt relieved by the outcome and buoyed by her supporters.
"It was a really big relief and vindication for my family and my two young girls as well," she said.
She hoped the case would be a lesson to reporters and newspapers.
"I hope it improves adherence to certain standards within journalism."
Judge Macnamara will rule on costs next Thursday.