Lehrmann withdraws from ‘presumption of innocence’ speaking role

Lisa Wilkinson after Monday's verdict

Source: ABC News

Bruce Lehrmann has withdrawn as a headline speaker at a $100-a-ticket “restoring the presumption of innocence” conference.

Lehrmann’s decision to can the outing comes a day after the Federal Court tossed out his defamation case, finding he likely raped fellow former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.

The sponsor of the June 1 Restoring the Presumption of Innocence Conference, Mothers of Sons, announced the decision on Facebook on Tuesday.

“Bruce Lehrmann has decided not to appear at the … conference. He is being subject to extremely aggressive pursuit by the media and is concerned that his participation may threaten the audience, jeopardise this important event, and distract from its main purpose,” the post said.

“[Australians for Science and Freedom] and Mothers and Sons have accepted his decision, and will find an alternative presenter while ensuring that the Lehrmann case still receives appropriate attention at the conference as a powerful example of trial by media undermining the vital legal principle of the presumption of innocence.”

According to its website, the Victorian-based ASF stands for free speech, intellectual and academic freedom, bodily autonomy, equality, and a search for truth.

Event sponsor Mothers of Sons was set up with the aid of men’s right activist Bettina Arndt. Its website says it is a “a group of ordinary women whose sons have faced extraordinary ordeals in our unjust, anti-male legal systems and workplaces”.

Other speakers listed for the Sydney conference include former NSW state prosecutor Margaret Cunneen SC, former Perth law reform commissioner Professor Augusto Zimmermann and Rule of Law Institute vice-president and conservative media commentator Chris Merritt.

Lehrmann’s decision not to appear follows Federal Court Justice Michael Lee ruling against him in his marathon defamation suit against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for airing Higgins’ allegations of rape in an interview on The Project.

Lee found that, on the balance of probabilities, a sexual assault took place on a couch in Parliament House in 2019.

“It is more likely than not that Mr Lehrmann’s state of mind was such that he was so intent upon gratification to be indifferent to Ms Higgins’ consent,” he said on Monday.

“Hence [he] went ahead with sexual intercourse without caring.

“Mr Lehrmann raped Ms Higgins.”

With the civil case requiring a lower threshold for proof than a criminal trial, the ruling does not mean Lehrmann has been convicted of any offence.

Outside court after the verdict, Wilkinson hailed it as “giving strength to women around the country”.

Network Ten’s lawyers called it “vindication” for the company and its belief and support for Higgins during the long-running defamation case.

“It’s an unmitigated disaster for Bruce Lehrmann,” Ten’s lawyer Justin Quill said.

The parties have been instructed to apply for costs by Monday. Quill said he was confident Ten would recoup at least some of its legal fees.

He said the result was a warning for other prospective plaintiffs looking to “make a quick buck”.

“You can come up with a con that might get you through a TV interview, or an interview with your bosses, or down at the pub with your mates,” he said.

“But when you come to the court, and you are cross-examined, and forensically examined, you can’t get away with it.”

Asked what Lehrmann should do next, Quill said he should “go get another degree”.

Lehrmann is yet to make any public comment following the verdict.

1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

-with AAP

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.