Porter loses barrister in defamation case

·3-min read

Christian Porter has suffered a significant blow to his defamation case after a Federal Court ruled his chosen lawyer could no longer work for him.

Sue Chrysanthou SC had been preparing the former attorney-general's case for trial.

However, an application to unseat her was made by a friend of the woman at the centre of rape allegations against the federal minister.

Mr Porter contested the injunction, with his barrister in that case Christopher Withers SC saying it was a "very big deal" if the minister lost his chosen counsel.

The case hinged on a meeting between Jo Dyer and the defamation specialist on November 20, regarding a potentially defamatory article in The Australian about Ms Dyer's appearance on ABC's Four Corners special.

Ms Dyer said she gave Ms Chrysanthou information that could be unfairly used by Mr Porter's legal team, but the lawyer denied anything of particular substance was said.

But after a four-day hearing, Justice Tom Thawley was satisfied confidential information had passed between the two women, and that Ms Chrysanthou must be restrained to protect the administration of justice.

"I have concluded there is a danger of misuse of confidential information," Justice Thawley said.

A fair-minded member of the public would also say the lawyer should not act for Mr Porter, he said.

What is said to be confidential is unknown to the public and was only discussed in closed court, without Ms Chrysanthou present.

The colleague of Ms Chrysanthou who set up the meeting as a favour for a friend later emailed her to say he believed she had a conflict of interest and could not act for Mr Porter.

Following the decision, Ms Dyer said her dealings with Ms Chrysanthou had previously been professional and collegial and she was disappointed they ended up in court.

"This case has been marked by profound sadness, loss and absence of (my friend), all of the effort time and money invested in this case stands in stark contrast to the way (my friend's) allegations had no investigation into them whatsoever, the way her voice has been silenced, her story still not told."

The judge agreed Mr Porter was at a disadvantage given the time and expertise his high-profile barrister had poured into preparing for trial.

But he concluded that Mr Porter must have known of the real possibility of litigation from March 15 when Ms Dyer flagged her concerns.

Justice Thawley dismissed Mr Porter's claim Ms Dyer unreasonably delayed the trial, saying she dealt with the matter appropriately through her solicitors.

Mr Porter, in a statement, thanked Ms Chrysanthou, who had been subject to "great pressure but has provided her services fearlessly".

The federal minister filed to sue the ABC in March after it published the existence of allegations he'd raped a woman in 1988. The woman took her own life last year.

The defamation proceedings have been further delayed until June 1 as lawyers for Mr Porter and the ABC enter mediation.

The deadline for ABC to file other documents against Mr Porter's application to have parts of their defence struck out has also been extended.

"Mediations are very common in defamation matters, and it is important that all litigant parties seek to explore potential resolution options when they can, especially so for the ABC as a model litigant," an ABC spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636