High Court rejects David Leyonhjelm appeal bid

Mr Leyonhjelm had argued his comments were made under parliamentary privilege. The court rejected that.

Mr Leyonhjelm had argued his comments were made under parliamentary privilege. The court rejected that. Photo: ABC News

The High Court has rejected former senator David Leyonhjelm’s application for leave to appeal Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s defamation win against him.

This comes three months after the full Federal Court dismissed Mr Leyonhjelm’s appeal against an earlier judgment and nearly three years after he made comments in the Senate that sparked the defamation battle.

The Greens senator was previously awarded $120,000 damages and costs against her former upper house colleague over comments that portrayed her as a hypocrite and misandrist after he told her to “stop shagging men”, when he believed she said in parliament that “all men are rapists”.

Mr Leyonhjelm argued in court that what he said was governed under parliamentary privilege or qualified privilege, as well as disputing the acts were caused by malice.

“At the time all I wanted was an apology but instead he continued to attack me,” Senator Hanson-Young said on Thursday.

“I am pleased this decision draws these three years to a close and that the thousands of dollars of damages that Mr Leyonhjelm must pay will go on to benefit the important work of two charities, the Working Women’s Centre South Australia and Plan International.”

A two-to-one majority of the full Federal Court refused to overturn the defamation finding against Mr Leyonhjelm. All three judges rejected his appeal ground relating to parliamentary privilege.

Senator Hanson-Young said that unanimous decision sent a strong message to parliamentarians that they were not above the law.

“Women across the country have had enough, just like I had when I took this action,” she said.

“We can stand up to badly behaved men and we can win. This win is for all of us. ”

Mr Leyonhjelm had slandered her during a senate motion on June 28, 2018, in discussing women’s safety following the rape and murder of young Melbourne woman Eurydice Dixon.

Senator Hanson-Young then complained about Mr Leyonhjelm’s conduct to the senate, to which he responded with a statement that he would not withdraw or apologise for his comments.

He gave subsequent media interviews about the matter until July 2, 2018.

In dismissing Mr Leyonhjelm’s application on Thursday, the High Court awarded further costs against him.

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