Rush tries to ‘strike out’ defamation defence

ACTOR Geoffrey Rush is attempting to suppress accusations contained in defence documents lodged in court by The Daily Telegraph in his defamation case.

The Oscar winner, who is suing the Telegraph for its reporting of a Sydney Theatre Company investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him, is seeking to "strike out" parts of the newspaper's defence documents and block their public release.

His barrister Richard McHugh SC argued in the Federal Court today against allowing even a redacted version of the defence to be given to media, after submitting that vast slabs must be crossed out to prevent further damage to his client's reputation.

"This goes vastly beyond what was in the article," Mr McHugh said.

Mr McHugh said the articles alleged "inappropriate behaviour" towards another cast member but never "spelled out" what Mr Rush was alleged to have done.

Geoffrey Rush is attempting to suppress accusations contained in defence documents. Picture: Stuart McEvoy
Geoffrey Rush is attempting to suppress accusations contained in defence documents. Picture: Stuart McEvoy

"They suggest that there has been some form of sexual misconduct that they don't spell out," he said.

Barrister for The Daily Telegraph, Lyndelle Barnett told Justice Michael Wigney that The Daily Telegraph opposed the "strike out " application.

She said that the articles did, "not make any allegation that Mr Rush engaged in inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature."

Ms Barnett said The Daily Telegraph had more information at the time of publication, which was later included in the defence papers, that it chose not to put in the articles.

"It was information we had and we didn't publish it, this shows our level of reasonableness," she said.

Justice Wigney deferred argument on the issue to later this month and issued an interim suppression order, noting the amount of material Mr Rush's legal team wanted struck out.

He found that so much material would have to be redacted to preserve Mr Rush's position that it would nullify the argument that the document should be released in the interests of the fair and open administration of justice.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star, who did not appear at court today, has launched defamation action over articles published last year that he was the subject of a complaint involving "inappropriate behaviour" during the Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear which ran from November 2015 until January 2016.

He has denied the allegations and lodged a statement of claim in the Federal Court claiming the articles conveyed "defamatory meanings" including that he was a "pervert" and "behaved as a sexual predator" while performing in the play.

The Daily Telegraph lodged its defence to the statement of claim last week.

All parties agreed to a proposal by Justice Wigney to keep the Daily Telegraph's defence document confidential until the next hearing on February 19.

Lawyers acting for Channel Nine and Fairfax have told the court they will also make an application on that day for the defence document to be released to the public