$175,000 damages payout

WEB Sophie Mirabella 03 Wk17 pe c4 20180426
Greg and Sophie Mirabella. PHOTO: Emma Hillier

FORMER Indi MP Sophie Mirabella was awarded $175,000 in damages following her successful defamation claim against the Benalla Ensign and its former editor Libby Price in the Wangaratta County Court.

Judge Michael Macnamara handed down his decision on Wednesday which was far less than the $300,000 to $400,000 sought by Mrs Mirabella’s counsel during the court case and considerably more than the $100,000 suggested by the legal team representing Benalla Newspapers Ltd.

Mrs Mirabella had sued Benalla Newspapers Limited, publishers of the Benalla Ensign, and its former editor Ms Price for publishing an incorrect claim that Mrs Mirabella had pushed political opponent Cathy McGowan at the opening of a new wing at Cooinda Aged Care in Benalla during the federal election campaign in 2016 to prevent her having her photo taken with Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt.

In announcing the amount of damages Judge Macnamara said his considerations led him to the view “that the award advocated by the defendants is plainly too low, but the one sought by the plaintiff is too high”.

“The proper award, in my view, is the sum of $175,000. This figure is dictated by the extensive republication and internet activity and the issues of aggravation mentioned above.

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