The Victorian County Court will consider financial damages after a country newspaper and its editor were found to have defamed former federal Liberal frontbencher Sophie Mirabella.
A six-person jury sitting at Wangaratta on Wednesday found in favour of the 49-year-old, who sued weekly newspaper The Benalla Ensign and its editor Libby Price over an April 2016 article about an encounter with Indi member Cathy McGowan.
"Their article said that Mrs Mirabella pushed Ms McGowan out of the way of a photograph," the former Liberal MP's barrister Georgina Schoff QC told the jury.
Published in the lead-up to the 2016 federal election when Ms Mirabella was trying to win the seat of Indi back from Ms McGowan, the article had a devastating impact, the five-day trial was told.
Ms Price initially stood by the article.
"Then finally, well after the election, when the matter is still being repeated all around town and she'd been made a fool of, joked about, the newspaper finally retracted the allegation," Ms Schoff said.
The barrister dismissed as "nonsense" the newspaper's defence of the defamation case.
"Truthful and honest reporting is very important. It's not just important to Ms Mirabella. It's not just important to her family. It's important to all of us, particularly important to the voters of Indi," Ms Schoff said.
It took the jury about an hour to reach a verdict and reports from the court said Ms Mirabella cried as the decision was read.
"It shouldn't have got to this point. It should have got fixed up soon after the Ensign published," she told the ABC outside court.
"It's been a long and difficult process."
Parties are due back in court on Thursday to make submissions about damages.
Australian Associated Press