(Image: Private Media)

The Ben Roberts-Smith defamation hearing has been bedevilled by events of biblical proportions -- wars, pestilence and revenge. Management of a case involving witnesses in Afghanistan and several Australian states, secret Defence department files and millions of dollars in legal fees was never going to be simple, but the recent COVID restrictions in NSW have presented the Federal Court with a unique set of problems. 

This morning Justice Besanko said that the hearing, currently in “suspended animation”, would be resumed next week to hear evidence from witnesses in Kabul. Time is running out for this part of the case, as the Taliban is steadily approaching the Afghan capital. In addition, electricity and telecommunications links are becoming unreliable, the court heard.

Roberts-Smith is suing three newspapers and three journalists for defamation, claiming that they falsely portrayed him as a war criminal and a murderer. Several of the SAS witnesses live in WA and they and their legal representatives would have to quarantine for two weeks to give evidence in NSW.