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Lehrmann rape hearing adjourned for ‘no-case’ argument

Lehrmann arrives at court

Source: X/Tobi Loftus

A rape charge hearing against former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann has been adjourned, with his defence planning to argue he has no case to answer.

Lehrmann, 29, on Monday attended a Queensland magistrates court for the first time since being charged with rape more than a year ago.

The committal hearing at Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, was part of a long-running process to determine if the matter will go to trial.

Testimony from the alleged victim was heard in a closed court before Magistrate Mark Howden ordered the committal be adjourned until July 4.

Defence barrister Andrew Hoare handed up a 12-page written submission from Lehrmann, saying he would present oral arguments for a no-case submission next month.

“As foreshadowed, they are submissions in respect to the sufficiency of the evidence to place my client on trial,” Hoare said.

Howden continued Lehrmann’s bail and allowed him to appear via videolink next month.

Lehrmann had travelled from interstate to attend the hearing and crown prosecutor Nicole Friedewald did not oppose him not having to appear in person next month.

Friedewald said the prosecution’s case was complete after submitting a new statement from the alleged victim.

Howden had earlier denied an application for journalists to remain in the courtroom while the alleged victim gave evidence, saying it would be prejudicial against Lehrmann.

“I acknowledge the public interest, however … the matter ought to proceed in the ordinary way,” he said.

Lehrmann was first charged in January 2023, but had not attended court for the matter until Monday. He was mobbed by media when he arrived.

“Where is Peter Costello when you need him?” he said, apparently in reference to the former Nine Entertainment chairman allegedly pushing over a journalist.

Lehrmann faces two counts of raping a woman at Toowoomba in October 2021, which his lawyers have said he denies.

Friedewald handed up a list of exhibits and witnesses including a police detective and multiple officers.

Barrister for News Corp, ABC and Nine Network, Jess Goldie, applied for journalists to remain in the courtroom while the alleged victim testified remotely.

Goldie said the high public interest in the case justified media remaining to ensure fair and accurate reporting.

It was opposed by Hoare, the crown prosecutor and the alleged victim.

Howden denied the application and ordered the packed courtroom’s public gallery be cleared.

Defence lawyers had mounted a weeks-long legal effort to maintain Lehrmann’s anonymity after Queensland changed its laws in October 2023 to no longer ban the publication of the names of people charged with certain sex offences prior to facing trial.

Lehrmann was able to be identified after being denied an ongoing non-publication of his name by the Queensland Supreme Court.

He was the subject of national media attention after being charged with the rape of Brittany Higgins in the office of then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds at Parliament House in March 2019, while both were employed by the senator.

Lehrmann denied the allegations and the case ended in a mistrial, with prosecutors withdrawing the charge and declining to proceed with a retrial out of concern for Higgins’ mental health.

In November 2023, Lehrmann started defamation proceedings against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over claims The Project had identified him as the person who raped Higgins.

In April, Justice Michael Lee found to the civil standard that Lehrmann did, on the balance of probabilities, rape Higgins and dismissed his lawsuit.

Lehrmann filed an appeal in May.

1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

– AAP

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