Ben Roberts-Smith’s parents pledge support on eve of defamation trial
The parents of former SAS soldier Ben Roberts-Smith have said they are proud of their son after arriving in Sydney to attend his defamation trial against The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, which is set to begin on Monday.
Len Roberts-Smith, a former appeal judge in the WA Supreme Court, and his wife Sue released a statement on Sunday saying that allegations their son was a war criminal had been “gravely distressing” for the whole family.
“The allegations have not only destroyed Ben’s life, but have affected us every day for the last several years. We never expected that our son would be unfairly attacked in this manner after he served his country in Afghanistan with distinction and risked his life,” they said in the statement.
Mr Roberts-Smith, a highly decorated former SAS soldier, is suing the media outlets over reports he allegedly committed murder during deployments to Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012 and that he allegedly punched the woman with whom he was having an affair in Canberra in 2018.
He denies the allegations and says the reports are defamatory because they portray him as a criminal.
The media will defend the claim using a truth defence at a defamation trial in the Federal Court in Sydney starting on Monday and set to run for up to 10 weeks. Mr Roberts-Smith will be the first witness to give evidence in the trial.
In their statement, Mr and Mrs Roberts-Smith said they had arrived in Sydney over the weekend to support their son and attend the trial.
“We are very proud of him for the father and son that he is. We love him and care for him like every parent cares for their child,” his parents’ statement said.
“It is a relief that Ben’s legal team have finally been able to get his case before the Federal Court. It will now be for the judge to hear the evidence and deliver judgment in due course. That being so, we are not able to make any further comment at this stage.”
The final lead-up to the trial has included urgent court action by Mr Roberts-Smith against his estranged ex-wife, Emma Roberts, in a bid to find out if she gave confidential information to the media outlets.
Ms Roberts was initially expected to be a witness for her ex-husband, saying the couple was separated when Mr Roberts-Smith started a new relationship and that it was not an affair.
However, Ms Roberts now says that is false and she was being pressured by Mr Roberts-Smith to lie. She is expected to now appear as a witness for the media outlets.
Mr Roberts-Smith’s barrister, Arthur Moses, SC, told the Federal Court on Friday that the proceedings against Ms Roberts related to an allegation she had access to an email account her former husband used to correspond with his lawyers about the defamation case and a separate inquiry into the conduct of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
With Michaela Whitbourn and Adam Cooper
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