Thu. May 30th, 2024

Aussie Judge Calls It: Bruce Lehrmann’s Defamation Case Takes a Hit as Brittany Higgins Wins on Rape Claim

Emily Hudson By Emily Hudson May29,2024
This article contains references to sexual assault.
Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson has failed, with a federal court judge finding that, on the balance of probabilities, Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins in Parliament House.
The judge found that defamatory imputations made by Ten and Wilkinson were substantially true, thus quashing Lehrmann’s lawsuit

When handing down his verdict on Monday, Justice Michael Lee stressed that his decision was based on the civil standard of proof, not the criminal standard, emphasising the “substantive difference” between the two.

“I have only to be reasonably satisfied that Mr Lehrmann has acted as I have found, and I am not obliged to reach that degree of certainty necessary to support conviction on a criminal charge,” Lee said.

He added that he would determine the question of damages and costs at a later stage.

An ‘omnishambles’ and a ‘lion’s den’

More than 45,000 people tuned in to a live stream of the final judgment as it was delivered at the Federal Court in Sydney on Monday — more than three months after the five-week defamation trial ended, and four days after the final hearing of additional evidence last week.
Lehrmann sued Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for defamation based on claims their story about the alleged rape of Higgins in a Parliament House office had identified him as the culprit — even though it did not include his name.

Ten defended its reporting, saying claims in the interview were true and in the public interest as they involved alleged sexual abuse in Parliament House.

Lee started his summary of findings into the Lehrmann case by saying: “Given its unexpected detours and the collateral damage, it might be more fitting to describe it as an omnishambles.”
Higgins appeared in an interview on Ten’s current affairs program, The Project, in early 2021 to allege she had been raped by a former colleague in Parliament House in March 2019. It was six months later, in August 2021, that Lehrmann was named as the man accused of raping Higgins.
Prosecutors ultimately aborted the criminal trial against Lehrmann for the alleged rape of Higgins, due to serious concerns about Higgins’ mental health.
It was Lehrmann who, on 7 February 2023, launched the civil defamation proceedings that would ultimately lead to a judge declaring he raped Higgins.
“Having escaped the lion’s den, Mr Lehrmann made the mistake of coming back for his hat,” Lee said on Monday.

Lehrmann has always denied the rape allegation.

A protracted legal battle

A judgment in the bitterly fought defamation battle had been due to be delivered on 4 April but was postponed when Ten successfully reopened the case to give further evidence.

In two further days of hearings, Lee heard allegations that Lehrmann had improperly provided confidential evidence to Channel Seven ahead of an exclusive interview on its Spotlight program.

This included claims that the network covered costs for expensive dinners, plane flights and accommodation, Sydney property rental, sex workers and illicit drugs.

Lee has included findings from this further evidence in his judgment.

Lehrmann was identified by Ten

One key issue in the case was whether Lehrmann was identified by Ten’s report as he was not specifically named in the program.
While delivering his verdict on Monday, Lee said Lehrmann was identified by The Project. However, his subsequent finding that Lehrmann raped Higgins meant that Ten’s truth defence quashed Lehrmann’s lawsuit.
Higgins and Lehrmann gave evidence during the defamation trial, with both experiencing attacks to their credibility over false or inconsistent statements made to police, the media and others.
If this story has raised any issues for you, help is available at Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you or someone you know wants to talk about sexual assault or harassment, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au

In an emergency, call 000.

Emily Hudson

By Emily Hudson

Emily is a talented author who has published several bestselling novels in the mystery genre. With a knack for creating gripping plotlines and intriguing characters, Emily's works have captivated readers worldwide.

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2 thoughts on “Aussie Judge Calls It: Bruce Lehrmann’s Defamation Case Takes a Hit as Brittany Higgins Wins on Rape Claim”
  1. Do you think the judge’s ruling sets a precedent for future cases involving defamation and sexual assault allegations?

    1. It certainly could have far-reaching implications for similar cases in the future. By finding that the defamatory imputations regarding rape were substantially true, the judge’s ruling may encourage more thorough investigations into such allegations before labeling them as defamatory. This decision underscores the importance of considering the nuances and complexities of sexual assault cases in defamation lawsuits.

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