/ 16 April 2024

“Omnishambles” Lehrmann case ends

Image source: AAP
Image source: AAP

The Squiz

One of Australia’s most dramatic defamation cases has ended with Justice Michael Lee finding “on the balance of probabilities” former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann raped his colleague Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019. This means Lehrmann has lost the case he brought against Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson to try to restore his reputation after they aired an interview with Higgins on The Project in 2021. In his summary judgement, which took more than 2 hours to read, Lee said Lehrmann “told deliberate lies” while giving evidence, and it’s likely he was “so intent upon gratification” he was “indifferent” to the question of consent from Higgins.


Yep, given there was an aborted criminal trial – and Lehrmann’s never had a finding against him – it’s significant. Lee’s judgement is 324 pages all up, and he didn’t miss when assessing the evidence from some of the key witnesses in the case. He found Higgins “selectively curated” material on her phone before handing it to police and he criticised Network 10 for not properly interrogating the angle of a “political cover-up”. Lee also found Wilkinson lacked “candour” in the witness box and should have known her Logies speech was “fraught with danger”. Lee reserved rare praise for former Minister Linda Reynolds’ chief of staff Fiona Brown (the woman who used to be the boss of both Lehrmann and Higgins) – he said he “unhesitatingly” preferred her evidence to that of Higgins or Lehrmann.

So is that the end of it?

Ah nope… Justice Lee is still to decide costs and there’s the possibility the decision might be appealed. There’s also a bunch of other court cases related to this that still have to play out… Senator Reynolds is suing Higgins and Higgins’ fiancé David Sharaz in the Western Australian Supreme Court. The new National Anti-Corruption Commission is also investigating if it should get involved. And that’s just a taste of the dozen or so legal cases or inquiries that have sprung out of this. So it’s a classic case of to be continued… 

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