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Porter accuser's friends 'like a cult', court told

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Friends of a woman who had accused Christian Porter of rape were behaving like a cult and would “make it very bad” for his barrister, she says she was told.

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Sue Chrysanthou SC says she was warned by colleague Matthew Richardson not to represent the former attorney-general in his defamation case against the ABC.

“He told me that he was worried for me and that his friends were upset or behaving like a cult on this topic, and that they wouldn’t let it go and that they would talk to the media and make it very bad for me,” she told the court on Wednesday.

Porter is fighting to keep Chrysanthou on the defamation case in a four-day hearing in the Federal Court.

He filed to sue the ABC in March after it published the existence of allegations that he’d raped a woman in 1988. The woman took her own life last year.

Jo Dyer, a childhood friend of Porter’s deceased accuser, wants the court to bench Chrysanthou.

She says she gave the lawyer confidential information in a November meeting that could be used against her or to help Mr Porter in the case. Ms Dyer believes she will appear as a witness.

A distressed Richardson tried to talk Chrysanthou out of taking the case because of “what a mess it was going to be in the press” and because he thought his friends would defame her, the barrister said under cross-examination on Wednesday.

He later emailed her to say he believed she had a conflict of interest and could not act for Porter.

Richardson, who’s the son of Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson, is close to James Hooke, another friend of the accuser.

He set up and attended the November meeting after inviting Chrysanthou to advise Dyer on a possible defamation claim over an article in The Australian. Hooke also attended.

Porter issued a press release in mid-May criticising the push to remove his lawyer.

He said he was “concerned” by the timing of Dyer’s lawsuit and that it had been widely known for two months that Chrysanthou was representing him.

But Dyer had been told by the silk’s lawyers that initiating a lawsuit earlier would be premature.

She privately objected to Ms Chrysanthou acting in the case on March 15, the day it was filed.

Chrysanthou denied that the purpose of the press release was to suggest the lawsuit had come as a surprise.

The court heard that the lawyer was unable to view emails about her conversation with Dyer when she received Porter’s brief because she deletes her emails every few days.

Chrysanthou warned Dyer she could be liable for over $150,000 of the lawyer’s costs if she lost.

She had been told Dyer could not afford to pay for even an hour of a silk’s time, she said.

Porter says any confidential information discussed in the meeting is now in the public domain and there is no ethical problem with the lawyer acting for him.

The silk says she’ll do whatever the court orders, but admitted assisting Porter in his preparation for the case about her removal.

The defamation case is back in court on Thursday.

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