James Ashby has dropped his case against Peter Slipper but will pursue the government to pay his $1 million-plus legal bill. Photo: Nic Walker
Former political staffer James Ashby is to pursue the federal government for more than $1 million in legal costs from his aborted sexual harassment suit against former parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper.
In a Federal Court hearing on Monday, the bitter legal stoush – in which Mr Ashby accused his former boss of "unwelcome sexual advances" – was formally discontinued following Mr Ashby’s decision to withdraw from the case last week.
However, Mr Ashby’s barrister, Tom Blackburn, SC, asked that his client be given the option of making an application for costs from the federal government. Justice Geoffrey Flick obliged, including this stipulation in his final orders.
Former speaker Peter Slipper was accused of sexual harrassment by James Ashby but Mr Ashby has dropped the case. Photo: Andrew Meares
The case spanned more than two years, covered numerous court hearings and produced thousands of pages of legal documents, so Mr Ashby's legal costs were expected to be in excess of $1 million.
In a statement released after the hearing, Mr Ashby said the decision by the full bench of the Federal Court earlier this year, which found the case was not, as had been found earlier, an abuse of the judicial process, gave him the right to pursue costs from the commonwealth.
"It became clear in the latest court hearings that the commonwealth government is, and continues to be, a major decider in how this case has progressed.
"But for the commonwealth's continued funding and support of Mr Slipper, this case may well have been settled a long time ago.
"We will be pursuing the commonwealth for what are called third-party costs."