Slipper applies for costs in Ashby case
Former Speaker Peter Slipper has applied for costs against the solicitors of James Ashby, who brought a sexual harassment case against him.PT1M29S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2bmzo 620 349 December 19, 2012
PETER SLIPPER has taken the hint offered by Federal Court Justice Steven Rares in his blistering assessment of the sexual harassment lawsuit that was brought against the former parliamentary speaker, and come out gunning for the team that concocted it.
Mr Slipper indicated on Wednesday that he was aiming for punitive action to be taken against his former employee, James Ashby, and Mr Ashby's solicitors, Harmers Workplace Lawyers, when he filed an application in the Federal Court for costs against each party to be awarded on an indemnity basis.
The application for costs to be awarded against a solicitor acting in the case is an extraordinary step, but some lawyers read Justice Rares's judgment last week as a coded suggestion to Mr Slipper as to the avenues available to him.
''If any special order for costs is sought in consequence of the orders I will make today, either party may apply within seven days,'' Justice Rares said.
Earlier in the judgment Justice Rares was critical of the role played by Mr Ashby's solicitor, Michael Harmer, who he accused of bringing ''scandalous and irrelevant'' allegations under privilege with the intention of damaging Mr Slipper's reputation.
''A lawyer cannot open a case in court by making statements that may have ruinous consequences to the person attacked that the lawyer cannot substantiate or justify by evidence,'' Justice Rares said.
He said the Federal Court was given the discretion to make cost orders under the Fair Work Act if the action was brought ''vexatiously or without reasonable cause''.
''Mr Ashby instituted the proceedings without reasonable cause because they were and are an abuse of the process of the court,'' Justice Rares said.
''Additionally, his unreasonable acts of instituting and prosecuting the proceedings caused Mr Slipper to incur costs for the same reason.
''Mr Ashby should be ordered to pay Mr Slipper's costs of the proceedings.'' The costs awarded by the Federal Court usually amount to between 50 and 70 per cent of the actual proceedings, but costs awarded on an indemnity basis cover the whole cost, and are considered a punitive measure.
Mr Slipper's interlocutory application lodged in the Federal Court on Wednesday asked for orders to be made that the costs ordered to be paid by James Hunter Ashby be paid on an indemnity basis, and an order that Harmers Workplace Lawyers pay his costs on an indemnity basis.
Mr Harmer did not comment on Mr Slipper's application. He has indicated that he will appeal the judgment.