‘No cover-up’: Linda Reynolds responds to Brittany Higgins’s apology

Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds and Brittany Higgins are embroiled in a defamation battle.

Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds and Brittany Higgins are embroiled in a defamation battle. Photo: AAP

Senator Linda Reynolds says she “regrettably’ will continue her defamation action against Brittany Higgins, unless her former staffer accepts there was no political cover-up.

Senator Reynolds responded on Sunday to Higgins’s first public statement since Justice Lee concluded she had been raped by Bruce Lehrmann.

On Saturday, Higgins said she was “sorry” for the toll suffered by then-Defence Minister Reynolds and former chief of staff Fiona Brown in the public and legal fighting.

In response, Reynolds said she appreciated Higgins’s apology and hoped that Justice Lee’s findings in relation to the allegation of rape would “give her peace”.

But Reynolds said her legal action against Higgins and Higgins’s fiancé David Sharaz was never about the rape claim.

Reynolds is suing the couple over social media comments made about her, with a trial to begin in July.

“My action deals with what Justice Lee exposed as false allegations raised two years after the rape,” Reynolds said.

“Allegations that I and my staff, specifically Fiona Brown, not only failed to support Ms Higgins but subjected her to a dreadful and damaging political cover-up.”

In her statement to social media on Saturday, Higgins stated she deeply regretted that she had not been able to find “common ground” with her former boss.

“My perceptions and feelings about what happened in the days and weeks after my rape are different from theirs,” said Higgins.

“I hope we can resolve our differences with a better understanding of each other’s experience.”

However Reynolds said the outstanding problem between them was not “different perceptions”.

“It is a fact that Ms Higgins received our support and that there was no cover-up. The common ground we now find must be based on the truth,” Reynolds said.

“As a matter of law, neither of us, nor Mr Sharaz, are bound by Justice Lee’s decision.

“If Ms Higgins does not accept Justice Lee’s findings on the claims of cover-up and mistreatment then, regrettably, it will have to be proved again in our trial set for July this year.”

Reynolds said she was pursuing her legal fight against Higgins and Sharaz at “enormous emotional and financial cost” in order to “expose the truth in relation to my conduct”.

Justice Michael Lee found on the balance of probabilities that Lehrmann raped Higgins, then aged 24, in Reynolds’ office in March 2019.

In findings delivered on Monday, Justice Lee found Lehrmann was so “hell-bent” on having sex with Ms Higgins that he was indifferent to her consent and raped her.

Speaking for the first time on Saturday, Higgins said it was “time to heal”.

“It has been five years of criminal and civil trials and government inquiries for the truth to finally be revealed,” she said.

Posting to her personal Instagram account Higgins said: “I was raped – no judgement was ever going to change this truth.”

“I lived with the shame, humiliation and fear of what telling my story would mean for my life and career, like so many other victim survivors,” she said,

Higgins thanked Justice Lee for his “trauma-informed approach” and for “recognising that reactions to assault can vary wildly”.

“In doing so, I hope he has set a precedent for how courts consider the testimonies of victim survivors of sexual assault,” she said.

Brittany Higgins posted a statement to social media on Saturday. Photo: Instagram

Lehrmann suffered courtroom devastation last week, failing to restore his tarnished reputation.

The 28-year-old sued Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for defamation over a February 2021 interview with Ms Higgins that aired on The Project and contained the rape allegations.

But Justice Lee ruled against Lehrmann and in favour of Ten and Ms Wilkinson after the broadcaster succeeded in its truth defence that the rape most likely did take place.

A criminal trial against Lehrmann was abandoned in 2022 with no findings made against him.

“Having escaped the lions’ den, Mr Lehrmann made the mistake of going back for his hat,” Justice Lee said.

The case will soon be back before the courts to determine the issue of legal costs.

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-with AAP

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