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Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Slipper case thrown out - THE sexual harassment case against former federal parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper has been dismissed by a Federal Court judge.
THE sexual harassment case against former federal parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper has been dismissed by a Federal Court judge.
In his judgment handed down on Wednesday, Justice Steven Rares said the sexual harassment case taken by Mr Slipper's former staffer James Ashby was taken "for the predominant purpose of causing political damage to Mr Slipper".
Justice Rares found Mr Ashby acted in combination with fellow staffer Karen Doane and former federal minister Mal Brough to "advance the interests of the LNP and Mr Brough".
"I have reached the firm conclusion that Mr Ashby's predominant purpose for bringing these proceedings was to pursue a political attack against Mr Slipper and not to vindicate any legal claim he may have," Justice Rares said.
"Mr Ashby began planning the attack at least by the beginning of February 2012," he added.
He said he was satisfied the proceedings were an abuse of the process of court.
"To allow these proceedings to remain in the court would bring the administration of justice into disrepute among right-thinking people and would be manifestly unfair to Mr Slipper," Justice Rares said.
Mr Slipper had sought to have the case, taken against him by former staffer James Ashby, thrown out as an abuse of the process of court.
The court had heard allegations Mr Slipper "cultivated a close and flirtatious relationship" with his employee and sent him several sexually explicit text messages.
Other allegations include that Mr Slipper stroked Mr Ashby's arm, moaned in a "sexual manner" when he gave him a massage, and showered with the door open.
Mr Slipper denied the claims.
Representing himself in court in October, Mr Slipper initially asked that the case against him be thrown out in light of the settlement between the Commonwealth and Mr Ashby.
At that hearing, Mr Slipper became visibly distraught as he described how he thought Mr Ashby was his friend until he took the claim against him.
"This case is seeking to hurt my political career, hurt me financially ... to destroy the government and in addition, to destroy my marriage," Mr Slipper said then, adding he believed Mr Ashby had been "placed" in his office by his political enemies.
Those claims were dismissed as "baseless" by Mr Ashby's lawyers.
The Commonwealth settled its case with Mr Ashby for $50,000 and a pledge to provide training for MPs and parliamentary staff to prevent sexual harassment.
Justice Rares was particularly scathing about Mr Ashby's actions in claiming Mr Slipper had a sexual relationship with a male staffer in 2003.
"The 2003 allegations dealt with what was apparently consensual behaviour and included details that were intended to demean Mr Slipper for no legitimate forensic reason," Justice Rares said.
"(There was) no sworn or affirmed evidence from anyone who could establish in 2003 Mr Slipper had sexually harassed his staff member.
"The 2003 allegations were irrelevant and scandalous."
Mr Ashby's originating application, filed in April, claimed Mr Slipper had also misused cab vouchers, but he later he abandoned those allegations.
"It would be one thing for Mr Ashby to have taken any genuine concerns he had privately to the police," Justice Rares said.
"It was quite another to use a publicly available court pleading to announce Mr Ashby had the intention to do so...
"A party cannot be allowed to misuse the court's process by including scandalous and damaging allegations, knowing that they would receive very significant media coverage, and then seek to regularise his or her pleadings by subsequently abandoning those claims."
Justice Rares ordered Mr Ashby to pay Mr Slipper's costs.