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Ben Roberts-Smith trial: War hero to take the stand in Sydney

Ben Roberts-Smith to take the witness stand TODAY in his defamation ‘trial of the century’ – after dismissing claims he punched a woman he was having an affair with after a boozy Canberra function

  • Australia’s most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith is suing Nine newspapers
  • The war hero is expected to take the witness stand in his defamation lawsuit
  • Afghanistan veteran and VC recipient claims he was portrayed as a war criminal  
  • 42-year-old set to step into a Federal Court witness box in Sydney on Tuesday
  • Roberts-Smith could claim millions in damages if he can prove he was defamed

Australia’s most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith is expected to take the witness stand on Tuesday in his defamation lawsuit over media reports he carried out unlawful killings during his 2009 to 2012 tour of Afghanistan.

The former special forces corporal is suing the publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times for defamation in the Federal Court over articles alleging he committed war crimes in Afghanistan, and assaulted a woman.

Mr Roberts-Smith’s barrister Bruce McClintock SC is part way through his opening address, which began on Monday, and has painted his client as a courageous and self-sacrificial soldier subject to a campaign of lies by ‘bitter people’ jealous of his success as a soldier.

Australia’s most decorated soldier has arrived at the Federal Court in Sydney ready for battle against the media outlets he claims destroyed his reputation as a war hero

Mr Roberts-Smith's ex-wife Emma has 'flipped' and is giving evidence for Nine Entertainment. The former couple is pictured together at a reception to celebrate military and civilian heroes in London in 2012

Mr Roberts-Smith’s ex-wife Emma has ‘flipped’ and is giving evidence for Nine Entertainment. The former couple is pictured together at a reception to celebrate military and civilian heroes in London in 2012

Mr McClintock has argued that other SAS soldiers developed enormous jealousy over Mr Roberts-Smith’s military awards and his Victoria Cross, with the war hero falling victim to tall poppy syndrome.

The war hero’s barrister has also rejected a claim of domestic violence against his client, labelling it a fabrication and insisting that Mr Roberts-Smith abhors violence against women.  

The Federal Court in Sydney heard on Monday that the woman, known as Person 17, had not made any allegation of assault against Mr Roberts-Smith until after he ended their relationship.

Mr Roberts-Smith, a former Special Air Service trooper awarded the Victoria Cross, is suing The Sydney Morning Herald over a story claiming he punched the woman, when he contends she drunkenly fell down the stairs. 

Barrister Bruce McClintock SC, for Mr Roberts-Smith, said Person 17 attended a function hosted by then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at Parliament House with his client on March 28, 2018.

Person 17 became so intoxicated at the function she fell down a set of stairs leading to an underground car park and suffered seriously injuries to her face, Mr McClintock said.

Mr Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for 'selfless' actions in Afghanistan and will now fight for his reputation in the Federal Court, claiming he was smeared by media giant Nine Entertainment

Mr Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for ‘selfless’ actions in Afghanistan and will now fight for his reputation in the Federal Court, claiming he was smeared by media giant Nine Entertainment

Nine newspapers published a story claiming Mr Roberts-Smith argued with the woman after the function and was angry with her out of fear she had exposed their affair.

The paper alleges that in response to Person 17 saying, ‘my head hurts’, Mr Roberts-Smith had said, ‘It’s going to hurt more’ or ‘I’ll show you what hurt is’ and punched her in the left eye.

Mr McClintock said that was exactly where Person 17 had been injured when she fell and Mr Roberts-Smith had not hit her.

‘This allegation is entirely false,’ he said.

‘[The fall] is the true and only sources of the injuries that this woman suffered that night.

‘Far from hitting Person 17 my client will give evidence that he absolutely abhors violence towards women and he has never and will never engage in it.’

The barrister’s opening address is expected to continue for most of Tuesday, before Mr Roberts-Smith takes the stand as the trial’s first witness.

Ben Roberts-Smith will spend the next two months in room 18D at the Law Courts Building in the central business district defending himself against claims he is a war criminal

Ben Roberts-Smith will spend the next two months in room 18D at the Law Courts Building in the central business district defending himself against claims he is a war criminal

Much of Tuesday’s evidence will be heard by Justice Anthony Besanko behind closed doors due to national security concerns, the court has been told.

It is also likely that Tuesday’s proceedings will involve some argument between parties about damages, it was discussed on day one.

The landmark defamation action is expected to take up to 10 weeks and hear from about 60 witnesses.

Mr Roberts-Smith denies all claims against him and is seeking aggravated damages, while the publishers have put forward a truth defence.

Mr Roberts-Smith's parents, Len and Sue Roberts-Smith depart the Federal Court, hours after claiming the allegations against their son ruined their lives

Mr Roberts-Smith’s parents, Len and Sue Roberts-Smith depart the Federal Court, hours after claiming the allegations against their son ruined their lives

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk