Leaked Higgins texts ‘calculated to pressure witnesses’

A lawyer acting for journalist Lisa Wilkinson has told the Federal Court that the leaking of Brittany Higgins’ private text messages to the media may be a deliberate effort to influence a defamation case brought by Bruce Lehrmann.

The phone records were reportedly sent to the parties involved in Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court over allegations he raped Ms Higgins in Parliament House.

The case was dropped due to Ms Higgins’ inability to continue as a witness over health concerns, after which Mr Lehrmann launched defamation action against the ABC, Network Ten and Wilkinson.

Mr Lehrmann on Friday denied he is the source of the leak.

High-profile defamation barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC, who is representing Wilkinson, told the Federal Court in Sydney that the ongoing media storm surrounding Ms Higgins and her client seemed like an “orchestrated campaign” to influence the proceedings.

Audio from a leaked recording of Wilkinson, Ms Higgins, her partner David Sharaz and Channel 10 executive producer Angus Llewllyn giving their views on high profile figures was first aired by Channel Seven on Sunday night as part of an interview with Mr Lehrmann.

Thousands of text messages on Brittany Higgins’ phone – which were not tendered during Mr Lehrmann’s trial – have separately been leaked to Channel Seven and other media outlets.

Ms Chrysanthou said the “overwhelming impact” on Ms Higgins of having her phone records leaked to the media could influence her ability to appear as a witness.

“The publicity of the last few days could only have been calculated to put pressure on witnesses not to co-operate,” Ms Chrysanthou said.

Ms Chrysanthou suggested Mr Lehrmann be asked if he was involved in leaking the text messages to the media.

“We’ve made inquiries of all other parties,” she said.

Mr Lehrmann’s barrister, Matthew Richardson SC, said his client “absolutely denies” the suggestion he was involved in leaking evidence which he described as a “grave and serious allegation”.

Ms Chrysanthou also said an interview with Mr Lehrmann aired by Channel Seven on Sunday, only showed his side of events and painted Ms Higgins and Wilkinson as “villains”.

“We have seen this week … an overwhelming amount of inappropriate media,” Ms Chrysanthou said.

“That publicly has been to such an extent that it … has had the effect … of putting improper pressure on my client. Overwhelmingly so.”

Lawyer for Ten and ABC, Dr Matthew Collins KC, said Mr Lehrmann had made clear he “intends to run a public campaign against Ms Higgins in the media”.

Justice Michael Lee said an official application would have to be made to the court regarding any alleged efforts to interfere with the administration of justice.

“I’m not seeking to minimise people’s personal feelings about it … but in the exercise of judicial power I deal with applications, not complaints,” Justice Lee said.

Ms Chrysanthou said she expected to receive instructions by her client to make such an application.

The hearing will continue on Friday afternoon.

– With AAP

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.