The day was grey and drizzling. The courtroom was cavernous and empty. The usual motley crew of lawyers, hangers-on and a few representatives from the media, old and new, were scattered throughout the room. On the bench, where their Honours sit, was one glass of water. There were no Slippers.
James Ashby visibly slumped, shed a tear and become overwhelmed with relief when Justice Mansfield, the presiding judge in this appeal, brought down the decision by the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia in his favour.
At the end of 2012 Justice Rares had thrown out Ashby’s sexual harassment case against Mr Slipper describing it ‘as an abuse of the judicial process’ with the main purpose to cause Mr Slipper ‘significant public, reputational and political damage’ with the aim of advancing ‘… the interests of the Liberal National Party.’
Ashby’s application for leave to appeal the Rares decision was granted, and his appeal was upheld by the Full Court. Costs were awarded in Ashby’s favour.
Harmer’s application for leave to appeal was not successful. He will have to pay the respondent, Peter Slipper, costs.
It was more than half-an-hour after Justice Mansfield pronouncement before Ashby fronted the media outside the Court. Harmer, McClellan and the rest of Ashby’s team were ensconced in one of the many interview rooms that are adjacent to the courts, celebrating their win as well as deciding the answer to the obvious question of ‘where to now’
Mr Ashby made it clear that today’s success enabled him to continue with his legal fight, his ‘chance to obtain justice for my original claim against Mr Slipper.’
His legal representatives contend that Ashby had ‘never had a proper hearing on the merits of his case’. This, so they say, is ‘what we’ve been after for a long time.’
There may be a few on the front bench of the LNP Government who hope that Mr Ashby doesn’t continue in his quest for justice and just vanishes into the political ether.
Time will tell.
In the meantime Mr Slipper could well be fighting on two fronts as his former media advisor, Ms Karen Doane, has brought an action against him alleging discriminatory practices during her period of employment in Mr Slipper’s office. This matter is due to be heard on April 1.