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Bruce Lehrmann trial may hit Senator Linda Reynolds-Brittany Higgins defamation case

Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds is meeting with Brittany Higgins and her partner David Sharaz in an effort to settle a defamation suit.

Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds is meeting with Brittany Higgins and her partner David Sharaz in an effort to settle a defamation suit. Photo: AAP

Credibility issues raised at Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation trial could affect two high-profile defamation cases that pit Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds against former political staffer Brittany Higgins and her partner.

Justice Marcus Solomon told the West Australian Supreme Court on Thursday that Justice Michael Lee’s comments in the Federal Court on Tuesday about “important issues of credibility” may affect the proposed mediation of Reynolds’ case.

“From reading the pleading in this matter my understanding is there is not an insignificant amount of overlap between the issues,” he said.

He invited the lawyers handling the Reynolds case to consider delaying the mediation, scheduled for March 5, until after Justice Lee handed down his findings for the suit against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson.

A new date of April 29 and 30 was proposed but a firm decision was not made, with Justice Solomon saying he would consider the options as he adjourned the court.

Outside court, Reynolds’ lawyer Martin Bennett said Justice Lee’s judicial findings may make findings of credibility about Higgins.

He said they could have an impact on the success of the mediation.

“We’ll wait and see when the mediation is held,” he said.

The Supreme Court heard Justice Lee asked the lawyers in the Lehrmann case to make submissions about “evidentiary tensions” or credibility, which could delay his judgment until April or later.

Reynolds, a former defence minister, is suing Higgins and her partner David Sharaz over a series of social media posts that she says have damaged her reputation.

Higgins is accused of posting defamatory material on two occasions on her Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Reynolds is suing Sharaz over tweets he made and a Facebook comment in 2022.

Among the defamatory imputations claimed against Sharaz’s tweets were that Reynolds pressured Higgins not to proceed with a genuine complaint to police, “is a hypocrite in her advocacy for women’s interests and empowerment”, interfered in Bruce Lehrmann’s trial and bullied Higgins.

Reynolds claims she was also defamed by Sharaz’s reply to a comment on her Facebook page that asked how she was still in politics having “destroyed” Higgins.

The commenter added, “You’re a monster who deserves to be in jail”.

Sharaz responded: “Thanks for reminding her. I hope she hears this every day until she dies”, the Senator’s statement of claim says.

Higgins alleged she was raped in 2019 by Lehrmann inside Senator Reynolds’ ministerial office, where he also worked as a staffer.

Lehrmann consistently denied the allegation, and his trial in the ACT Supreme Court was derailed by juror misconduct.

Prosecutors decided not to pursue further action, citing concerns over the impact it may have on Higgins’ mental health.

Lehrmann has since been charged with raping another woman in Queensland and his lawyers have indicated he will plead not guilty.

Higgins and Sharaz left Australia in December to start a new life in France.

Senator Reynolds has received legal advice from French lawyers about her right to enforce an Australian judgment against assets the pair may have in France but Bennett refused to comment about the outcome.

-AAP

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