Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation proceedings against Channel 10, Lisa Wilkinson near conclusion

Bruce Lehrmann's defamation proceedings against Lisa Wilkinson and Channel 10 is about to conclude.

Bruce Lehrmann's defamation proceedings against Lisa Wilkinson and Channel 10 is about to conclude. Photo: AAP

Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation proceedings against Channel Ten and Lisa Wilkinson has seen twists and turns, but will shortly come to an end.

The proceedings were launched after The Project aired an interview with Brittany Higgins in which she accused a work colleague of raping her in Parliament House.

When will a decision be made?

Justice Michael Lee has signalled that he will hand down a verbal and written decision at 10.15am on Monday, April 15.

Lehrmann’s defamation lawsuit was launched in February 2023, before entering the courtroom in November for a five-week trial.

Three months after the trial had ended, Justice Lee reopened the case to hear two days of fresh evidence surrounding Lehrmann’s interview with Channel 7’s Spotlight program.

Why is Lehrmann suing?

Lehrmann has accused Channel Ten and Wilkinson, former host of The Project, of defaming him when Wilkinson interviewed former political staffer Brittany Higgins, who alleged an unnamed co-worker – later identified as Lehrmann – of raping her in Parliament House in the early hours of Saturday, March 23, 2019.

Former minister for defence Linda Reynolds, who is suing Higgins in a separate defamation lawsuit, employed both Lehrmann and Higgins in Canberra.

Lehrmann denies any sexual contact with Higgins and pleaded not guilty in his criminal trial, which was aborted after jury misconduct.

Prosecutors chose not to pursue a retrial fearing the effect it would have on Higgins’ mental health.

His criminal trial was initially delayed after Wilkinson thanked Higgins for her courage while receiving a Gold Logie for her interview on The Project.

Lehrmann also initiated defamation proceedings against News Corp and the ABC, which settled with the one-time political adviser.

The trial

Both Higgins and Lehrmann have appeared in the witness box throughout the trial, recounting differing versions of events from each other and previous testimony of the alleged rape.

Lehrmann said while under oath that he had told three differing versions of the events leading up to and inside Parliament House, two of which he claimed were lies.

Higgins testified across four days, during which she spoke about the alleged incident and how it destroyed her relationship with her ministerial bosses.

Justice Lee flagged several discrepancies with previous testimony given by the two key witnesses.

Justice Lee has questioned Bruce Lehrmann’s testimony during the trial. Photo: AAP

What new evidence was discovered?

After the five-week trial, Justice Lee reopened the courts to hear evidence from Taylor Auerbach, a former Channel 7 Spotlight producer, who was tasked with securing an interview with Lehrmann.

Explosive evidence from TV producer Taylor Auerbach prolonged Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case. Photo: AAP

He claimed Seven had reimbursed Lehrmann for money he had used to hire sex workers and to buy cocaine while negotiating to secure the interview.

He also told the court that Lehrmann had handed over evidence from the criminal trial to producers at Spotlight, which would be a breach of court rules.

Lehrmann’s lawyers accused Auerbach, who is no longer employed by Seven, of stepping forward to damage his former employers.

After two days of testimony, Justice Lee announced he would deliver his verdict on April 15.

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