Federal Court orders Harmers Lawyers to swallow James Ashby's frivolous $3 million legal costs

In a final vindication, former Speaker Peter Slipper defeats James Ashby in the Federal Court yet again, leaving Ashby's lawyers to foot all of Slipper's former staffer's exorbitant legal costs.

THURSDAY 21 April 2016 was another dark day Harmers Workplace Lawyers. On that day last week, its long, abusive fight against Peter Slipper ended in ignominy. As in all four legs in the air.

The Federal Court, which had been forced to endure the Ashby/Slipper "Ashbygate" farce since June 2012, can now close its files.

Here's what happened

Way back in June 2012, only a month after the allegations against Slipper were first aired, there was a stoush about the points of claim. Slipper had submitted his diaries had been accessed "unlawfully", then decided to withdraw that allegation — mainly because it seemed too complex an argument to prove at the time.

Accordingly, Harmers had to adjust its points of claim. Changes cost money and Harmers asked Justice Rares for an order that the Slipper team meet the cost. Rares, who seemed to have the hump at Slipper at the time, agreed and, on 17 August, went one step further by awarding indemnity costs. Indemnity cost orders, as against standard cost orders, have the dollars based on the solicitor’s actual charges rather than standard scale fee charges. So that was a win for Harmers.

Then, in a rollercoaster for all concerned, Justice Rares threw the Ashby matter out as an abuse of process in December 2012, before Harmers hit back in May 2013 by lodging a leave to appeal. Harmers hit again in February 2014 when leave to appeal was granted.

In June 2014 the firm bottled and decided not to proceed with its appeal. Various self-serving reasons were put forward but none passed sunlight. They simply didn’t have a leg to stand on and they knew it. Plus, it would have put many of the supporting cast in a nasty spot.

As part of this bottling process, the Ashby/Harmer team agreed to certain terms, one of which was that Slipper retained the right to ask for the indemnity cost order be set aside and, on 11 September 2014, it was.

Harmer lodged an appeal against this setting aside and lost. Decisively.

Their Honours Gilmore, Siopsis and Mansfield, the same trio who granted Ashby’s leave to appeal, this time decided:

'… the appeal is to be dismissed. The applicant should pay to the respondent his costs of the application for leave to appeal, and of the appeal.'

The final wash up of this attempt to abuse the court system to further the interests of the Coalition leaves Harmers Workplace Lawyers facing, according to Ashby, cost in the vicinity around $3m. 

It serves them right.

You can read the full judgement of the Federal Court in this matter HERE.

Find out how you can order IA's new book Ashbygate: the plot to destroy Australia's Speaker, by Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones, by clicking HERE.

Also available as an eBook.

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