Former house of representatives speaker Peter Slipper says sexual harassment claims by a former staff member caused enormous personal stress which require ongoing psychiatric treatment.
Mr Slipper said he’d now been vindicated by the decision of James Ashby to drop his sexual harassment claim.
He said the impact of those allegations had been ‘immeasurable and irreparable.’
‘The allegations brought by Mr Ashby have caused enormous personal stress which has required ongoing psychiatric and psychological treatment and many weeks of inpatient hospital care,’ he said in a statement on Wednesday.
‘My mental illness is both ongoing and debilitating.’
Mr Ashby announced on Wednesday he would drop his legal action.
That started in 2012 when he revealed lurid details of alleged sexual harassment by Mr Slipper, then the Labor government-appointed house speaker.
His appointment was highly controversial as it had increased Labor’s majority in the finely balanced parliament. At the height of the scandal, Mr Slipper stood down from the speaker job.
In a scathing decision in 2012, Federal Court Justice Steven Rares threw out Mr Ashby’s case, finding his main purpose was to pursue a political attack against Mr Slipper.
However, the full bench of the Federal Court reversed that decision and the case was set to proceed on June 30.
Mr Ashby said he was aware of reports Mr Slipper was mentally unwell and he did not want to continue lengthy proceedings that could cause further harm.
‘After deep reflection and consultation with those close to me, I now have decided to seek leave to discontinue my Federal Court action against Peter Slipper,” he said in a statement.
‘This has been an intense and emotionally draining time for me and my family, taking its toll on us all.’
Mr Ashby also cited the potential costs, given the Abbott government had confirmed the Commonwealth continued to cover Mr Slipper’s legal fees.
He said this kind of ‘deep pocket litigation’ was fundamentally unfair for an ordinary person seeking justice.
Mr Slipper said the decision came as a complete surprise and it meant no court had ever found sexual harassment occurred.
‘I very much regret that these horrendous allegations have meant that I was never able to complete my reform agenda for the House of Representatives,’ he said.
However, Mr Slipper, 64, still faces three criminal charges relating to dishonest use of a taxpayer-funded Cabcharge card for trips to wineries near Canberra in 2010, before he became speaker.
After failing in a Supreme Court bid to have those charges thrown out of court, he’s now set to argue they should be dropped on grounds of his mental illness. That’s listed for the ACT Magistrates Court for next Wednesday.