Defamation battle stalls as Brittany Higgins hospitalised

Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped in a parliamentary office by Bruce Lehrmann.

Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped in a parliamentary office by Bruce Lehrmann. Photo: AAP

Senator Linda Reynolds has wished Brittany Higgins a “swift recovery” after the 29-year-old was hospitalised on the first day of forced meditation in their defamation battle.

Higgins reportedly went to Royal Perth Hospital on Tuesday after a gruelling near-10-hour court session with fiancé David Sharaz, former boss Reynolds and their lawyers.

The former Liberal political staffer was discharged on Wednesday afternoon, News Corp reports.

A second consecutive day of talks between Higgins, Sharaz and Reynolds that had been scheduled for Wednesday was adjourned.

On Wednesday night, Reynolds issued a statement wishing Higgins a “swift recovery”.

“Legal negotiations are unfortunately sometimes difficult and testing for all participants and yesterday was a tiring and difficult day for all of us,” Reynolds told The Australian.

“I attempted to minimise stress by avoiding any direct contact that may have been confronting and relying on a very experienced judge to interact with Ms Higgins.

“I proposed today through my solicitor a two-week pause in the case to enable Ms Higgins and all parties to recover and get past the stress of the court attendance and significant media attention. I hope Ms Higgins makes a swift recovery.”

Reynolds emerged from the closed-door mediation session at Perth’s David Malcolm Justice Centre on Tuesday declaring that her defamation suit with Higgins and Sharaz was ongoing.

The former defence minister is suing Higgins and Sharaz over a series of social media posts she says damaged her reputation.

The couple said nothing to waiting media as they left court on Tuesday.

They left Australia in December to start a new life in France, with social media posts showing the Arc de Triomphe and the couple walking a dog.

Lawyers for the parties appeared in the Western Australian Supreme Court in February, when they sorted out key dates in preparation for a trial should mediation fail.

Justice Marcus Solomon encouraged the parties to work together to resolve the matter before a lengthy and costly trial.

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

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

Lehrmann has always 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 of the impact it might have on Higgins’ mental health.

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

1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732
National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

-with AAP

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