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‘No proof’ Higgins would lose job for rape complaint

Lisa Wilkinson will face questions over her interview with Brittany Higgins.

Lisa Wilkinson will face questions over her interview with Brittany Higgins. Photo: AAP

There was no proof to back up claims Brittany Higgins would lose her job at Parliament House if she filed a police complaint about her alleged rape by Bruce Lehrmann, a court has heard.

Network Ten producer Angus Llewellyn made the admission on Wednesday as he gave evidence to the Federal Court.

Lehrmann is suing for defamation over a February 2021 report on The Project regarding the Higgins’ claims.

“Are you saying that at the time the program was broadcast, you had – to use your words – no proof of an allegation that she was being told that if she proceeded with police charges … she’d lose her job,” Justice Michael Lee asked.

“I didn’t have proof,” Llewellyn said.

“Does that mean the answer to my question is yes?” the judge said.

“Yes,” Llewellyn said.

Higgins alleges she was raped by Lehrmann in the Parliament House office of their then-boss, Senator Linda Reynolds, in March 2019.

He denies the allegation, insisting no sexual contact occurred.

In a five-hour hotel meeting with Wilkinson and Llewellyn in January 2021, Higgins initially said Reynolds and her acting chief-of-staff Fiona Brown had been supportive of her going to police.

She then separately said that going to police would not have been feasible, that Reynolds and Brown would not have stopped her reporting the matter, and then that they were not supportive of her doing so.

“When you heard all of that, did it occur to you that there was a serious problem with what she was saying?” said Lehrmann’s barrister Matthew Richardson SC.

“None whatsoever, Mr Richardson,” Llewellyn said.

He attempted to get a statement from Lehrmann, sending him an email and phoning him on the Friday before The Project report was broadcast.

He said Higgins’ fiance David Sharaz gave him Lehrmann’s Hotmail address, an email address from a former employer and a mobile number garnered from an October 2018 parliamentary press release.

He did not try to contact Lehrmann via his LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram profiles – despite locating these social media accounts and taking screenshots – telling the court these were “inappropriate” forums to discuss a serious topic like sexual assault.

Llewellyn said he had waited until 72 hours before The Project aired to contact Parliament House employees or friends and colleagues of Lehrmann and Higgins because she was worried the government might step in to stop the story going public.

“I have a very, very strong duty of care to someone who is clearly a suffering trauma victim,” he told the court.

Suggestions by Richardson that he had kept the story under wraps for commercial reasons to retain the network’s exclusive were denied.

“That’s not how journalism works,” Llewellyn said.

He also denied Richardson’s claims that Sharaz had a political agenda despite him mentioning his friend Labor minister Katy Gallagher would question the Coalition about Higgins’ claims.

“They have to answer questions at question time. It’s a mess for them,” Sharaz said during the January 2021 hotel meeting.

Lehrmann was charged in August 2021 over the alleged rape, but his criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court was derailed by juror misconduct.

Prosecutors did not seek a second trial, citing concerns forMs Higgins’ mental health.

Lehrmann is also before Queensland courts accused of raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021.

He has not entered a plea, but his lawyers have indicated he denies the charges.

1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

– AAP

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