So-called “secret” recordings of Brittany Higgins’ lawyer speaking at a Sydney hotel bar while she faced cross-examination are being sought by Bruce Lehrmann as he sues for defamation.
The recordings were taken of Leon Zwier and others at the Park Hyatt Lobby Bar on December 4 and reportedly revealed the lawyer discussing how Higgins’ could respond to questions in cross-examination as she gave evidence in the Federal Court.
There is no suggestion Higgins was present during the Park Hyatt conversation or that she received advice relating to the topics discussed.
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While under cross-examination, a witness is specifically told not to discuss the case with anyone else.
During the trial, Justice Michael Lee gave Higgins these express instructions each time she left the witness box to return later.
Lehrmann made an application to subpoena Sky News on Tuesday.
Sky News received the “secret” recording of Zwier and published an article on the discussion on Tuesday morning.
Bruce Lehrmann made an application to subpoena Sky News to hand over so-called secret recordings. Credit: AAP
The broadcaster has until Tuesday afternoon to hand over the recording.
The court heard there may be issues over whether the audio was illegally recorded and whether it could be admissible as evidence in court.
Lehrmann is suing Network Ten and high-profile journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a February 2021 report on The Project regarding Higgins’ claims of sexual assault.
In that television segment, Wilkinson interviewed Higgins over her claim she was raped by Lehrmann in the Parliament House office of their then boss Senator Linda Reynolds in March 2019.
Lehrmann has consistently denied the rape allegation, saying no sexual contact occurred between them.
Ten producer Angus Llewellyn is set to take the stand followed by Wilkinson, if time permits on Tuesday.
Llewellyn and Wilkinson are part of a qualified privilege defence brought against Lehrmann’s case in which he is seeking significant damages over the report on The Project.
Under a qualified privilege defence, a broadcaster typically tries to show they had a duty or interest in broadcasting certain statements and their audience had an interest in being informed of those matters.
The trial has so far called a parade of people to testify including Parliament House colleagues, police officers and Higgins’ family members as Ten seeks to prove the truth of her claims.
Witnesses have described seeing Higgins distraught after the alleged rape, telling the court about dramatic changes in her personality as she grappled with the emotional and professional toll of what she claimed occurred.
Higgins initially declined to go to police to file an official complaint, claiming she had experienced pressure to keep quiet so she could retain her job working for the Liberal party.
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.