Brittany Higgins made confronting statements regarding her inability to consent days after being allegedly raped on a minister’s couch by Bruce Lehrmann.
Former departmental liaison officer Christopher Payne says he saw a teary-eyed Higgins walking past his office early in the week after a reported security incident at Parliament House on Saturday, March 23, 2019.
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He told a Federal Court defamation trial on Monday the junior media adviser spoke of waking up on a couch in the office of her then-boss, Senator Linda Reynolds, to find fellow staffer Lehrmann on top of her.
“I said, ‘Did he rape you?’,” Payne said.
“Her response was, ‘I could not have consented. It would have been like f***ing a log’.”
These “confronting” words by a young woman in tears in his office stuck with him, he added.
Payne, now a government relationship manager for the Australian Institute of Marine Science, was giving evidence as Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson tried to establish the truth of the rape allegation featured in a February 2021 broadcast of The Project.
Brittany Higgins said she could not have agreed to have sex with Bruce Lehrmann. Credit: AAP
Lehrmann claims this report is defamatory and denies that any sexual contact between himself and Higgins occurred.
The trial has run for over a week and a half and is expected to go into the final week before Christmas, the court heard on Monday.
Lehrmann was charged in August 2021 over the alleged rape, but his criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court was derailed by juror misconduct.
Prosecutors did not seek a second trial, citing concerns for Higgins’ mental health.
Lehrmann is also before Queensland courts accused of raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021.
He has not yet entered a plea, but his lawyers have indicated he denies the charges.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.