Brittany Higgins will give more evidence in support of Network Ten’s defence against defamation proceedings launched by Bruce Lehrmann, after the broadcaster aired her allegation she was raped by a colleague in Parliament House.
Lehrmann was charged in August 2021 over the alleged rape in Senator Linda Reynolds’ office in March 2019, which he denies.
His criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court was derailed by juror misconduct and prosecutors did not seek a second trial, citing concerns for Higgins’ mental health.
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Lehrmann is suing Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson in the Federal Court, claiming their interview with Higgins on The Project in February 2021 defamed him.
He alleges Wilkinson acted in a “high-handed and reckless manner” and prejudiced his approaching trial in a speech she made at the Logies in June 2022.
“You attribute to my client, in these proceedings, very particularly, blame in relation to the prejudicing of your trial because of her Logies speech,” Wilkinson’s barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC said on Tuesday.
Brittany Higgins will continue giving evidence on Wednesday. Credit: AAP
Lehrmann later gave interviews with rival media company Seven Network and said the Logies speech and an associated delay in his criminal proceedings “afforded (his lawyers) the opportunity to dig deeper”.
“In fact you agreed with your senior counsel that if it hadn’t perhaps been for that Logies speech and the delay in the trial you would have been in more trouble,” Chrysanthou said.
“Can you define more trouble?” Lehrmann responded.
He disagreed when Chrysanthou suggested he thought the delay caused by the Logies speech saved him from being convicted, and maintained he had been prejudiced by it.
Lehrmann said Seven Network paid for accommodation in locations where the filming took place but told the court he did not know how much it had cost the network.
He finished his evidence on Tuesday afternoon after a four-day stint in the witness box, which also contained details of him having “spiralled quickly”, seeking cocaine after learning of the media reports and staying out past 6.30am before checking himself into hospital.
After Lehrmann left the witness box, Higgins watched as Ten’s barrister Matthew Collins KC and Wilkinson’s barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC presented an outline of their defence cases.
Bruce Lehrmann finished giving evidence on Tuesday. Credit: AAP
Chrysanthou said Lehrmann had given “various versions” of events which didn’t make a lot of sense and left gaping holes in the evidence, but when the broadcast went to air the subject matter was of significant public interest.
Dr Collins said he expected Higgins to give “graphic and distressing” evidence of being assaulted by Lehrmann after a night out drinking when she was “more drunk that she had ever been in her life”, as well as about her interactions with Lehrmann in the weeks leading up to the alleged rape.
He said Lehrmann was not named in the broadcast, which focused on exposing alleged inadequacies in the government’s response to the allegations and Higgins’ perception they posed a political problem putting her “dream job” at risk.
Ten plans to call more than 20 witnesses in addition to Higgins.
She told the court on Tuesday she had aspired to continue working in politics.
“I wanted to work my way up the ranks,” Higgins said.
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.