Lehrmann-ABC defamation settlement details released

Higgins gives evidence for third day

Details of Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation settlement with the ABC over the broadcast of a speech by Brittany Higgins at the National Press Club in 2022 have been revealed.

A deed of settlement published by the Federal Court on Wednesday revealed the ABC agreed to pay a total of $150,000 towards Lehrmann’s legal costs.

The broadcaster also agreed to remove a Facebook video of the joint speech given by Higgins and 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame.

The agreement also requires the ABC not to reinstate a YouTube video of the speech.

Lehrmann’s defamation trial against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson will resume for a 10th day on Thursday.

After Lehrmann and Higgins each gave evidence for several days, attention has turned to other witnesses.

Two security guards who let Higgins and Lehrmann into Parliament House about 1.30am on the night of the alleged rape – Nikola Anderson and Mark Fairweather – will take the stand on Thursday.

Following them will be Senator Linda Reynolds’ former aide de camp, Nikita Irvine, and Higgins’ former close friend Ben Dillaway, who she confided in about the alleged rape.

‘Passionate kiss’

Late Wednesday, the court heard that hours before Higgins claims she was raped by Lehrmann, the pair were seen kissing and touching each other in a Canberra nightclub.

After going out for drinks at pub The Dock and 1980s themed club 88mph, the duo returned to Parliament House early on March 23, 2019, where the alleged sexual assault occurred.

Lauren Gain was a parliamentary colleague who was out with Higgins, Lehrmann and Austin Wenke that night.

She told the Federal Court on Wednesday that she saw Higgins and Lehrmann sitting close together at 88mph, being intimate in a booth.

“I remember them being quite touchy with one another … I remember them kissing,” she told Justice Michael Lee.

They both had their hands on each others’ thighs and kissed for a period of time, Gain said.

“I take it [that] it was a passionate kiss?” the judge said.

“Yes,” Gain said.

From the witness box, Wenke said he could not recall whether there had been any kiss between the two colleagues that night.

Lehrmann is suing Ten and Wilkinson for defamation over a February 2021 report on The Project about Higgins’ allegations. She claims she was raped in the office of their then-boss, Reynolds, early on March 23, 2019.

Lehrmann has always denied the allegations, saying there has never been any sexual contact or any intimacy between the pair.

Earlier the court heard that, weeks before the alleged rape, Lehrmann asked if a “good-looking” Higgins could be invited out to drinks.

Nicky Hamer, a former Liberal staffer who worked alongside Lehrmann and Higgins, spoke about the conversation, which she said happened on March 2, 2019.

“Bruce made a comment about Brittany being good-looking and asked me if I knew her,” Hamer said.

“He asked me just to see if she was free to pop down to the pub.”

Hamer already worked for Reynolds when Higgins joined the office after her former employer, Steven Ciobo, resigned as defence industry minister.

The court heard Higgins went to the Kingston Hotel to meet Hamer, Lehrmann and another staffer, Jesse Wotton, on March 2 – before she was given a job with Reynolds.

When Higgins said she had to leave, Lehrmann took her phone for a minute or two, to prevent her ordering an Uber, and asked her to stay for another drink, Hamer said.

Hamer told the court that after Higgins left, she got angry with Lehrmann over his actions. Lehrmann allegedly retorted that Hamer was a “feminist” who always felt like she had to stick up for women.

Wotton, now deputy state director of the Western Australia Liberal Party, told the court that Hamer had “overreacted” towards him and Lehrmann.

Hamer claimed they had pressured Higgins into staying and the junior staffer would have thought she had lost her opportunity for a job in Reynolds’ office because she opted to leave.

“I was very unhappy about that accusation being made,” Wotton said.

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

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

Lehrmann is also before Queensland courts accused of raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021. He has not yet 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

-with AAP

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