Saturday, June 4, 2022

"There's never been a case like this"

If you haven't been following the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation case in Australia (said to be the longest and most expensive such case in the country's history), this report by The Sydney Morning Herald's Harriet Alexander is the place to begin. Arm yourself with a double espresso as you dive in; it's complicated. How's this for a lede?

Arthur Moses, SC, enunciates the phrase “winged penis” as though holding it in a pincer grip with silicone gloves. His thick black hair is neatly parted to one side, his manners impeccable, his legal pedigree immaculate. A former president of the NSW Bar Association and former president of the Law Council of Australia, he has represented the highest-profile litigants in the land during his 29 years at the bar.

Now he is representing Ben Roberts-Smith, Australia’s most decorated living soldier, and he is picking around the regiment humour of the Special Air Service troops who served in Afghanistan. The evidence in this trial has ranged through the seediest basements of the soldiers’ private lives and brought matters once whispered between veterans into the public sphere. It has broken friendships among the troops, many of whom were called to testify under pain of subpoena and resented the fact of the trial’s existence.

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