Assange Defamation Case Questioned


Marianna Papadakis WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was unlikely to succeed in a defamation case against Prime Minister Julia Gillard because he was outside the statutory time period in which claims must be brought, lawyers said yesterday.

Sydney defamation barrister Clive Evatt said he accepted a brief in July after a phone call from Mr Assange’s father, John Shipton.

But other top defamation lawyers questioned Mr Assange’s motives for announcing the action, given that plans to launch a political party and for Mr Assange to run for the Senate were revealed by Mr Shipton in an interview before The Network’s telemovie Underground: The Julian Assange Story.

Mr Evatt said Ms Gillard allegedly defamed WikiLeaks when she told a radio station in 2010 it acted illegally by releasing 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables.

Bruce McClintock, SC, said that, as Mr Assange had not acted on the defamation case for two years, he believed it was clearly a stunt.

Several other defamation experts including Kennedys’ partner Patrick George said the action was outside statutory limitation period and would be highly unlikely to be granted an extension by a court.

“The actual statement probably does suggest something defamatory. But there would be a respectable case that it was true,” Mr McClintock said.

“All she [Ms Gillard] would have to show is that it was contrary to the law of a place that had jurisdiction.”

Australian Defamation Lawyers principal Barrie Goldsmith said the comments could only be brought within the one-year statute barred period-if they were on Ms Gillard’s or the government’s website.

Ms Gillard could also claim qualified privilege.

There were other questions on how Mr Assange would give evidence from the Ecuadorian embassy. 

Mr Evatt said Ms Gillard’s comments were “all over the internet” and that the case would be pursued vigorously.

Please note that the firm of Goldsmiths Lawyers was acquired as from 1 July 2021 by Rostron Carlyle Rojas LawyersBarrie Goldsmith, who has specialised in defamation for 40 years, continues to work for the firm as Special Counsel. You can read more about the acquisition at the following link.