Court finds News Corp journalist defamed criminal lawyer

News Corp has been ordered to pay $110,000 to Sydney criminal lawyer Christopher Murphy for statements made by journalist Annette Sharp in The Daily Telegraph.

Federal Court Judge, Justice J Lee concluded in his ruling that “the appropriate amount for non-economic loss comprising general damages is an award of $110,000”.

The print article in question was titled ‘Portrait of the artist as an estranged wife’ published in October 2020 and as ‘Celebrity lawyer Chris Murphy splits with wife of 25 years’ online.

Murphy is a well regarded criminal defence solicitor who has acted for many high profile clients. According to the court documents, this reputation allowed him to become the “rainmaker” for his firm, with clients engaging his firm because of his reputation.


In an article chiefly about the breakdown of his marriage, Sharp wrote that Murphy “continues to battle with the ravages of age and with it the associated deafness that has kept him from representing his clients in court during the past year”.

Murphy said the article conveyed a number of defamatory imputations, such as that he was incapable of representing his clients’ interests in court by reason of the ravages of age and associated deafness.

Justice Lee commented: This is an example of a case where the damage to reputation has occurred in circumstances where a person’s professional standing is affected (although there is no reflection on the integrity of Mr Murphy).

“Having said this, the appropriate and rational relationship between the harm sustained and the amount of damages awarded should reflect the widespread publication, the fact that the law places a high value upon reputation, that Mr Murphy is entitled to vindication of reputation, and that he did experience a significant degree of subjective hurt to feelings.”

Parties involved have until 4pm today to submit any evidence to the costs order, otherwise, on 21 April 2021, the order will formally enter judgment reflecting the award.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.