Norvill evidence inconsistent: Rush lawyer

Lewis Collier
November 9, 2018

The barrister acting for Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush in a defamation case against The Daily Telegraph says the stories about his client are an example of "cruel" and "reckless journalism".

Geoffrey Rush's barrister has launched a blistering attack on The Daily Telegraph as he accused the Sydney tabloid of wrecking lives and careers.

Ms Norvill repeatedly denied lying when she was in the witness box and The Telegraph's lawyer Mr Blackburn has told Justice Michael Wigney she had no motive to do so.

"Did they care? Did they think about what they were doing? The answer is clearly no", Mr McClintock said.

He said the articles were "the most recklessly irresponsible journalism that has come before the [Federal] Court, or a court in this country".

Tom Blackburn, SC, for Nationwide News, told the court on Thursday a front-page article published by the Telegraph on November 30 past year, headlined "King Leer" and reporting a complaint of "inappropriate behaviour" had been made against Mr Rush over his conduct during the STC's 2015-16 production of King Lear, had been "carefully constructed" to emphasise the actor's denials.

One front-page story was headlined "King Leer" and featured a portrait of Rush in character.

Ms Chrysanthou said it sounded like a "ridiculous silent film" to suggest Mr Rush made a series of lewd gestures towards Ms Norvill, including making hourglass shapes, licking his lips and bulging his eyes.

He said McClintock had failed to explain what motive Norvill would have had for inventing her claims against Rush.

The barrister said it did not make sense.

Eryn Jean Norvill's testimony of sexual harassment by Geoffrey Rush was "rife with contradictions, inconsistencies and recent invention", a court has heard. "Who cares! That's not Your Honour's job [to decide]", she said. "We don't know why".

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"Imagine Mr Rush behaved like this on a daily basis", Chrysanthou said.

Ms Chrysanthou said Justice Wigney should go further than finding the newspaper had not established on the balance of probabilities that key incidents had occurred, and should "nail the lie" and find they did not occur.

"She said there were other people who saw it and were laughing".

In her evidence Norvill suggested other cast members had "enabled" Rush's alleged behaviour, and suggested that a generation gap between cast members may have meant some did not see his behaviour as inappropriate.

"Member of the cast and crew would have seen it; the audience woud have seen it", Ms Chrysanthou said.

Mr Winter has recalled Mr Rush touched Ms Norvill's left breast while Ms Norvill said it was the side of her right breast.

If Mr Winter's account was accepted, "everybody" would have seen it, she added. "He never spoke to Ms Norvill about it, he never spoke to anyone about it".

"[That] argument would have significantly more force if not for the subeditors", he said. "They just can't help themselves with their bad puns". "That's putting it in mild terms".

But, he said, "the problem" were the headlines such as "King Leer" and "Star's bard behaviour", which he likened to "very large puffs of smoke suggesting there's a fire there".

Nationwide News denies the newspaper conveyed those imputations about Rush, but is arguing they are substantially true after Norvill - who didn't participate in the articles - agreed to testify.

Blackburn said the word word "pervert" is someone who "engages in sexual behaviour that is not just offensive but disgusting....and weird".

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