PERTH barrister Lloyd Rayney has been awarded the second-biggest defamation payout in the nation’s history with a Supreme Court judge handing him more than $2.6 million in damages against the West Australian government.
The naming of Mr Rayney by Detective Senior Sergeant Jack Lee as the “prime” and “only” suspect in the murder of his wife Corryn Rayney in 2007 prompted the lawsuit.
He was later charged with murder but found not guilty in a judge-alone trial in 2012.
Mr Rayney’s payout includes nearly $1.8 million including interest for loss of income during the three years between Det Sen Sgt Lee’s defamatory remarks and when he was charged.
Another $846,000 including interest has been awarded on other issues, including reputation damage, hurt and distress.
The police were criticised in Wednesday’s judgment by Supreme Court Justice John Chaney for their conduct in their investigation and a “prejudicial view” taken against Mr Rayney in Det Sen Sgt Lee’s press conferences that prompted the lawsuit.
The defamation of Mr Rayney could not have been much worse, his lawyer Martin Bennett said in court, including the “enormous gravity of the imputation” against him and its “devastating effects”.
He said outside court the WA government had spent more taxpayers’ money fighting the case than it would have to pay Mr Rayney.
There was some disappointment that the amount only applies to the three years from the date of the defamation in 2007 until 2010, Mr Bennett said, with Mr Rayney having sought more than $10 million in lost income representing the last decade.
Mr Rayney, who was working and not present at Wednesday’s hearing, was still affected by the police actions and had been “accosted” in the street last week by a member of the public who called him a murderer, he said.
Mrs Rayney’s murder remains unsolved and the defamation trial heard about two men who shared a house nearby including Allon Lacco, a violent sex offender, and fellow sex offender Ivan Eades who left a cigarette butt with his DNA outside the Rayney family home in Como.