Ben Roberts-Smith has sensationally taken legal action against his ex-wife Emma, accusing her of potentially hacking into his email account ahead of his defamation ‘trial of the century’ against Nine.
The reason behind the former Special Air Service trooper’s sudden lawsuit against Ms Roberts was revealed in the Federal Court on Friday by one of his barristers, Arthur Moses SC.
Mr Moses told the court that evidence showed Ms Roberts ‘had access’ to an email account used by Mr Roberts-Smith to speak with his lawyers about an inquiry into Army conduct in the Afghanistan war.
His lawyers fear that she may have shared some of that information with Nine, the media giant he is suing over allegations it published alleging he committed war crimes while deployed in Afghanistan.
Ms Roberts is expected to testify for Nine at the trial, after flipping on her husband and father of her two children.
At the centre of Mr Roberts-Smith’s concerns is that Nine had sought documents from him including emails and attachments on April 19. Mr Moses told the court that Mr Roberts-Smith had also found emails ‘had also been deleted from the inbox and outbox’ of his account without his consent.
Ben Roberts-Smith is suing ex-wife Emma Roberts over claims she illegally accessed his emails
The emails that were allegedly accessed may have contained potentially privileged material, the court heard.
If such material had been handed to Nine it could cause legal issues with the defamation case and even risks delaying it.
Ms Roberts was ordered to deliver all information allegedly sourced from the email account in her possession to the Federal Court by 2pm today.
She was also ordered to tell the court how she had allegedly obtained the information and whether it was by herself or ‘agents’ including her friend Danielle Scott.
Danielle Scott – described as a ‘very close’ confidant of Ben Roberts-Smith’s ex-wife – was named during the hearing
Ms Roberts handed over unspecified paperwork to the court registry on Friday morning.
The court heard the Commonwealth Government will also seek to review whether Ms Roberts is in possession of material concerning the separate Afghanistan inquiry.
Orders were made for the separate lawsuit to go to hearing at a later date.
Victoria Cross recipient Mr Roberts-Smith will be the first witness of an expected list of 60 to testify at his defamation trial next Monday.
An April pre-trial hearing heard that he is eager to ‘expose the lies’ he claims the newspapers had told about him.
‘He’s extremely anxious to do so,’ his lawyer Bruce McClintock SC said.
The trial will begin with an opening address from Mr Roberts-Smith’s lawyer, followed by the soldier giving evidence-in-chief and being cross-examined by Nine.
Character witnesses – originally to include the former Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce – will then attest to the soldier’s reputation.
Nine will then present its case: that the serious allegations it has levelled against Mr Roberts-Smith are true.
The media company argues Mr Roberts-Smith was complicit in and responsible for the six alleged killings while on deployment and that they constituted war crimes.
Mr Roberts-Smith this year debuted his new girlfriend Sarah Matulin – who quit her job at Channel Seven when their relationship became serious
Mr Roberts-Smith’s reputation is on the line – as is how the country understands Australia’s role in the Afghan war. Above, the soldier at the Australian War Memorial
Ms Roberts, her friend, a former bodyguard to Schapelle Corby and Afghani villagers will be among those to give evidence for Nine.
Then Mr Roberts-Smith’s team will call evidence from his other witnesses, believed to include other diggers.
Seven proprietor Kerry Stokes (left) is bankrolling the Roberts-Smith lawsuit. Above with wife Christine Simpson
Much is on the line at the trial. Mr Roberts-Smith’s reputation would be in tatters if Nine successfully defends the action.
If Nine lost, it would be a devastating blow – both in financial terms, given hefty legal fees on top of multi-million dollar damages – but also for morale.
Also on the line are the egos of the country’s biggest media proprietors.
Seven billionaire and Australian War Memorial chairman has bankrolled Mr Roberts-Smith’s legal action.
In audio obtained by 60 Minutes, Mr Roberts-Smith said he would be ‘f***ed’ without Mr Stokes’s financial firepower.
Since resigning his military commission, Mr Roberts-Smith has been working as the general manager of Channel Seven’s Queensland division.