Roberts-Smith to continue giving evidence

Ben Roberts Smith is giving evidence in his high-profile defamation case against media outlets.
Ben Roberts Smith is giving evidence in his high-profile defamation case against media outlets.

Ben Roberts-Smith will continue giving evidence at his landmark defamation action against media outlets over claims he committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

Mr Roberts-Smith, 42, is in the witness box at the Federal Court trial launched against the publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times in the Federal Court that he says defamed him in media reports from 2018 related to his military service in Afghanistan.

The war hero claims the reports depict him as a criminal who breached the moral and legal rules of military engagement.

He is also suing over reports alleging he assaulted a woman in a Canberra hotel room.

The Victoria Cross recipient denies all the claims against him, while the publishers put forward a truth defence.

He will resume his testimony on Friday after breaking down in the witness box late on Thursday afternoon while recounting details of the SAS action at the 2010 Battle of Tizak, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia's highest military honour.

Mr Roberts-Smith, the trial's first witness, has described claims by the respondents critical of his war service as devastating and heartbreaking, saying he had spent his life fighting for his country and did everything he could to act on the field of battle with honour.

In his evidence, the former SAS corporal has also denied that he killed a captured Afghan insurgent, bullied another SAS soldier, or punched and kneed a detained Afghan male.

He has also denied drinking from the prosthetic leg of a killed insurgent, but has said he does not have a problem with "gallows humour" as a way for soldiers to desensitise from horrors of combat.

The respondents have alleged in court that Mr Roberts-Smith committed six murders in Afghanistan and none of the alleged killings were carried out in the "fog of war".

The judge-alone trial, estimated to run for 10 weeks, will hear testimonial evidence from 21 current and former SAS members as well as several Afghan villagers, it has heard.

It has been told Mr Roberts-Smith lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in income after his reputation was "smashed" by the media reports, and that he is seeking aggravated damages.

Australian Associated Press