James Ashby.
James Ashby.

James Ashby considering appeal on court costs ruling

UPDATE: THE taxpayer-funded legal stoush between James Ashby and Peter Slipper shows no sign of coming to an end.

Mr Ashby and has lawyer Michael Harmer have indicated they are considering an option to appeal the Full Court of the Federal Court judgment handed down on Monday.

The judges ruled against Mr Ashby's appeal for costs from the Commonwealth and Mr Slipper in the long-running sexual harassment case.

While Mr Harmer has indicated he would continue to meet Mr Ashby's legal costs - estimated around $3 million - taxpayers are picking up the tab for Mr Slipper and the Commonwealth to fight his claims.

Judges John Mansfield, Antony Siopis and John Gilmour were critical in their lengthy judgment of Mr Ashby trying to claim costs from the Commonwealth.

In a move described in legal circles as "unusual", the court ordered Mr Ashby to pay the Commonwealth's costs for the appeal in full.

Mr Ashby and Mr Harmer said in a statement sent to the Daily yesterday that a "central part of the present appeal was a claim against the Commonwealth, who have been funding Peter Slipper's case all the way through".

But the judges detailed in their judgment how Mr Ashby "unconditionally" accepted an offer of settlement, estimated by other sources at $50,000 from the Commonwealth, a day after it was offered on September 26, 2012.

"In our view, no reason is shown why the agreement reflected in the Deed of Settlement does not apply in the present circumstances, or that that agreement should not be enforced."

The judges further argued that "we consider that the terms of settlement are clear".

Mr Ashby and Mr Harmer have argued it was "hardly fair" the Commonwealth had continued to fund Mr Slipper in the face of him being convicted of criminal fraud charges.

"Such practices by the Commonwealth actively discourage people from taking action against serious and genuine cases of injustice," their statement said.

Slipper accuser James Ashby facing $3m legal bill

JAMES Ashby has had a very bad day in court.

The Federal Court of Australia has refused his application to have his costs - estimated at about $3 million by legal sources - in his sexual harassment case paid by Peter Slipper and the Commonwealth.

And in a further setback, the court has ordered Mr Ashby to pay the Commonwealth of Australia its full costs for his application on costs to be heard.

This alone has been estimated at about $50,000 - the same amount Mr Ashby received as settlement from the Commonwealth in his initial claim of breach of contract under the Fair Work Act.

The judgment by Judges John Mansfield, Antony Siopis and John Gilmour made it clear Mr Ashby was never vindicated in his claims of sexual harassment against Mr Slipper, the former Member for Fisher.

Mr Ashby withdrew the sexual harassment case in June last year, weeks before it was due to be heard, saying he believed the Federal Court's decision to grant an appeal had indirectly suggested "the harassment had in fact occurred".

The judges have made it clear this is not the case.

They refer to the ruling by Justice Steven Rares that Mr Ashby's claim against Mr Slipper was "an abuse of process and should be dismissed".

They said the Federal Court did not share the view of Justice Rares, but "that did not amount to the Full Court making positive findings in favour of Ashby about his reasons for bringing the primary proceeding".

"Making such serious findings as Ashby seeks against Slipper, on the basis of incomplete evidence, is not a step the court is persuaded it should make,'' they said.

Mr Slipper's lawyer, Simon Berry, said it was an "excellent result".


IT SEEMS even the Federal Court of Australia can be prone to awkward typos.

"When so read, we do not agree that Ashby was deprived of the opportunity to be hard," Paragraph 51 of the judgment reads. Should that read "heard" and not "hard"?