find the latest legal job
Legal Advisor
Category: Other | Location: All Darwin NT
· Exciting and challenging environment · 3 year fixed contract - Position # LO6
View details
Property Lawyer | In-house | Global UK Company | 3-8PQE | Melbourne
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Melbourne VIC 3004
· Be part of a large in-house team · Property experience an advantage
View details
In-house Property Lawyer - 3-6year PQE | Dynamic High Impact Role
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Melbourne VIC 3004
· Highly regarded internal legal team · Ideal first in-house role
View details
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Category: Other | Location: Perth CBD, Inner & Western Suburbs Perth WA
· Strategic Leadership Role · Strong Commercial Skills & Knowledge
View details
LAW COMPLAINTS OFFICER
Category: Other | Location: Perth CBD, Inner & Western Suburbs Perth WA
· Statutory Appointment · Legal Profession Complaints Committee
View details
Assange consults prominent Sydney barrister

Assange consults prominent Sydney barrister

One of Sydney’s best-known defamation lawyers has advised WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange regarding possible legal action against Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Barrister Clive Evatt told Lawyers Weekly that he was approached by Assange about a defamation claim against Gillard relating to her 2010 statement that WikiLeaks is “illegal” and “grossly irresponsible”.

“I was consulted about a claim in July,” said Evatt. “As the offending article was [published] over 12 months ago we would have to sue for the continuing publication on the internet. I advised the defendants should be Fairfax and Gillard.”

Assange stated recently he was considering suing for defamation and had hired lawyers in Sydney that were investigating different ways to sue Gillard over the statement.

Defamation experts have said the case is unlikely to be heard because a defamation suit must be brought within 12 months of the publication of the defamatory statement.

Evatt, 81, added that since being approached by Assange he remains in the dark about whether the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief intends going ahead with suing Gillard.

“I have heard nothing further,” said Evatt, who along with being a barrister is an avid art dealer and a museum proprietor.

Evatt can count actress-dancer Emilia Caruana as one of his clients - the Australian woman defamed by a newspaper article in the early 1990s after it falsely stated she was a sex slave of Bob Dylan.

Johnson Winter & Slattery partner Kevin Lynch (pictured) has labelled the threatened action by Assange as “far fetched”, stating there are too many obstacles for him to negotiate for a successful case against Gillard.

“It’s a mad suggestion that you would sue the Prime Minister over a comment like that,” Lynch told Lawyers Weekly. “Particularly when you’ve got statute of limitations issues … you’ve got enough hurdles in a defamation action without having to add that to your pile.”

Lynch said he didn’t know whether it was just a publicity stunt by Assange.

Free speech campaigner

“In the same breath that Assange is threatening defamation proceedings he describes himself as a free speech campaigner. A lot of people, including some of Assange's supporters, might see all of this to be a contradiction, and a bit precious.”

Lynch added that Assange has more than the limitations problem to overcome. He said that “the defences of truth and comment are likely to be enough to get the Prime Minister off the hook”.

It would be “novel” for Assange to argue for an extension to the limitations on the basis he was busy doing other things, such as responding to rape allegations in Sweden or seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, said Lynch.

He added that there is no requirement that Assange be in Australia provided he has lawyers with an address in the jurisdiction.

Lynch also believes that it’s unlikely a court would grant an extension on the basis that Assange had not been aware of the comment until now because he has been out of Australia.

“It is unlikely in this case. The Prime Minister’s comments were widely and internationally published.  It can be assumed that Assange has some familiarity with the internet.  It wasn't an obscure publication or a rumour that Assange has to nail down.”

Assange is still within time to make a claim in the tort of injurious falsehood on behalf of WikiLeaks. Lynch feels this avenue would prove another dead end. 

“An injurious falsehood has nothing going for it,” he said.

“It’s a notoriously difficult tort to make out.  Assange has the onus of proving that the Prime Minister's statements were false, that she acted maliciously with intent to cause injury without lawful excuse, and that actual economic loss has occurred or will occur as a result.

"He would struggle with all three."

Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
May 26 2017
Coroner’s Lindt Café siege findings to have consequences for criminal lawyers
One of the most extensive coronial inquests in NSW has now concluded, with 45 recommendations concer...
May 26 2017
Lawyers can be humans too, judge says
Judge Felicity Hampel of the Victorian County Court has spoken about the need for lawyers to engage...
Sydney
May 26 2017
Sydney to host international dispute resolution conference
A discussion focusing on the future of dispute resolution will come to Sydney on Monday, 29 May, as ...
APPOINTMENTS
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years...
Angela Lynch
May 9 2017
Women’s legal service appoints chief executive
Women’s Legal Service Queensland has appointed an experienced family lawyer as its new CEO. ...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...