When emotional former attorney-general Christian Porter thanked a ‘select group’ who stood behind him after a historical rape allegation was made public, was he thinking of one woman in particular?
Well-regarded criminal lawyer Karen Espiner confirmed on Wednesday she is in a relationship with Mr Porter, after sightings of the pair in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
At a press conference this week, Mr Porter was emotional as he spoke of close supporters who backed him after allegations emerged – which he has always vehemently denied – that he raped a teenager in 1988 emerged.
In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, Ms Espiner said the relationship wasn’t a secret but a ‘private matter’. Mr Porter had been seen far away from home in Coogee recently
‘It’s often said that during difficult times you get to know who your friends are,’ he said.
‘For me, the number of fairweather friends have been few.
‘There have been a select group of people – and they know who they are – who have showed a level of courage in standing by me, even when the modern day lynch mob was targeting not just me, but anyone close to me.
‘They demonstrated a type of courage to me that I will never forget.’
On Wednesday evening Ms Espiner, co-founder of local firm Younes + Espiner Lawyers, confirmed that the pair had struck up a romance.
‘We are in the early stages of a relationship,’ Ms Espiner said in a statement.
‘That relationship has not been a secret but it is a private matter which we do not intend to talk about in any detail.’
Love has blossomed between former attorney-general Christian Porter and specialist criminal lawyer Karen Espiner, from Coogee in Sydney’s east, it was confirmed on Wednesday night
The couple’s romance appears to have come to light after the pair were seen together on a plane to Canberra.
Mr Porter, a divorced father-of-two, had been in Sydney – where he settled his defamation case with the ABC on Monday – before flying to the nation’s capital for Parliament on Tuesday.
Gossip about the pairing has been whizzing around Sydney’s legal district since March but hadn’t been confirmed until now.
Christian Porter announced he and wife Jennifer had split in 2020
Ms Espiner confirmed the relationship to Daily Mail Australia, saying she had nothing to add.
The ABC amended a February 2021 article reporting on a historical rape allegation against Mr Porter as a result of its settlement.
Mr Porter strongly denied the claim and secured a note from the ABC saying it ‘regretted’ its article could be misinterpreted as an accusation of guilt against the cabinet minister.
Ms Espiner said in a statement that she wasn’t involved in the defamation action.
Mr Porter split with his wife Jennifer, also a lawyer, in January 2020, after thirteen years together.
‘It is a mutual decision and no third parties are involved,’ they said.
‘We have been working hard to see what could be possible because first and foremost we are loving parents to two wonderful little children.’
The bombshell document Christian Porter DOESN’T want you to read: Minister fights to keep the ABC’s defamation defence from being released
By Daniel Piotrowski and Charlie Moore for Daily Mail Australia
Christian Porter will fight to have a ‘scandalous’ defence document submitted to a court by the ABC in his defamation battle kept secret.
The Morrison Government minister dropped his case against the ABC after reaching a settlement with the public broadcaster over a February 26 article written by reporter Louise Milligan.
The ABC was forced to say it ‘regrets’ that the report could be ‘misinterpreted’ as making an accusation that Mr Porter was guilty of a historical rape, which he has vehemently denied.
But as of Tuesday morning it remains up in the air as to whether 27 blacked out pages of an ABC defence document will ever be made available for public consumption.
While the ABC added an editor’s note to the end of Louise Milligan’s February 26 article as part of the settlement, it will not take the report down or pay Mr Porter damages
The pages were kept confidential during the case on an interim basis, after Mr Porter’s lawyers argued the document should be redacted because it contained material that was ‘scandalous’ and potentially an abuse of the process.
As part of their settlement, the ABC and Mr Porter agreed that the document could be permanently removed from the court file – which would mean the press couldn’t report its contents with legal protection.
However, Federal Court Justice Jayne Jagot on Tuesday said she had concerns about the parties’ proposed order, saying it was essentially a permanent suppression order.
Media outlets will oppose the order, the court heard, and Justice Jagot said: ‘It’s not a matter for simply the parties to agree.’
The judge will also need to decide whether a blogger from the Kangaroo Court website, Shane Dowling, can intervene separately in the case.
Justice Jagot indicated that she will order a hearing be held into the matters at a later date.
Mr Porter filed his case against the ABC and journalist Ms Milligan in March, claiming he was the victim of a malicious ‘trial by media’ regarding denied allegations that he raped his 16-year-old female debating teammate in Sydney 1988, when he was 17.
The court document is presently redacted
The former attorney-general was not named as the alleged rapist in the ABC report published, but later outed himself as the senior minister accused of the crime in a tearful media conference.
His lawyers claimed ‘many Australians’ could have figured out the story was about him and challenged the ABC to prove the allegations are true in the Federal Court.
But following mediation, Mr Porter decided to drop the case. He was not paid any settlement fee but the ABC was required to update its article with an editors’ note expressing ‘regret’ that readers may have thought the minister was guilty.
Mr Porter claimed victory and said the ABC had been forced in to a ‘humiliating backdown’ – however, the national broadcaster said it ‘stands by the importance of the article’.
Attorney-General Christian Porter (pictured denying rape allegations in a tearful presser) sued the ABC for publishing an article online accusing him of raping a debating teammate in 1988
Mr Porter said on Monday that he didn’t think the article should ‘have ever been printed and published in the way that it was.
‘It was sensationalist, one-sided, unfair and it is the sort of reporting that any Australian can be subject to unless people stand up to it,’ he said outside court in Sydney.
‘The ABC and Louise Milligan have been forced to say that the accusations in the article could not be proven to a civil standard or a criminal standard.
‘So the same people who were calling for some kind of civil hearing have now been forced to say that the accusations would not be proven to a civil standard.
‘Now, I never thought that the ABC would get to that point but that is the point that they would get to,’ he said.
He thanked his supporters and friends who stood by him, even when ‘the modern-day lynch mob was targeting me.’
The industry minister said he would not ask to return to his former role as attorney general and would contest the next election in his seat of Pearce in Perth.
‘I have aspirations to get on with the job of being a minister,’ he said.
The ABC’s editor’s note reads: ‘On 26 February 2021, the ABC published an article by Louise Milligan. That article was about a letter to the Prime Minister containing allegations against a senior cabinet minister. Although he was not named, the article was about the Attorney-General Christian Porter.
‘The ABC did not intend to suggest that Mr Porter had committed the criminal offences alleged.
‘The ABC did not contend that the serious accusations could be substantiated to the applicable legal standard – criminal or civil.
‘However, both parties accept that some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter. That reading, which was not intended by the ABC, is regretted.’
In its statement, the broadcaster added: ‘The ABC stands by our investigative and public interest journalism, which is always pursued in the interests of the Australian community.
‘The ABC stands by Louise Milligan, one of Australia’s foremost and most awarded investigative journalists, and all our journalists in their independent and brave reporting on matters about which Australians have a right to be informed.’
Following Mr Porter’s press conference, the ABC said it does not ‘regret’ the article.
A spokeswoman said: ‘The ABC has never and still does not accept that the article suggested guilt on the part of Mr Porter.
‘The ABC did not plead a truth defence to the “guilt” meaning that Mr Porter alleged in his statement of claim.
‘The article was not “sensationalist”. It was an accurate and factual report on a letter that had been sent to the Prime Minister and two other senior politicians.’
Mr Porter categorically denied raping a 16-year-old fellow debater when he was 17 in March.
Christian Porter (pictured during a debate when he was a schoolboy) said the alleged rape ‘just didn’t happen’
‘The things that have been claimed to happen did not happen,’ he said at an emotional press conference, unveiling his identity as the senior politician alluded to in the article.
‘I did not sleep with the [alleged] victim. We didn’t have anything of that nature happen between us,’ he added.
By unveiling himself, Mr Porter ended six days of speculation over the accused’s identity.
‘The things I have read did not happen. And to suggest that they could be forgotten is ridiculous, they just never happened,’ he said.
The accuser, who struggled with her mental health for years, told police about her allegation in February last year.
The woman, who has been named only as Kate, took her own life in June. NSW Police closed their investigation into the matter in March.