Judge bunkers down to mull the claims, lies and mysteries of 22-day Lehrmann trial

Brittany Higgins and beau David Sharaz have relocated to France as Justice Lee considers his verdict.

Brittany Higgins and beau David Sharaz have relocated to France as Justice Lee considers his verdict. Photo: AAP

With three legal teams and a slew of witnesses heading home for the holidays, a judge will begin work on his decision in Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation lawsuit.

Justice Michael Lee will have the mammoth task of poring over around 15,000 pages of transcript and 1000 separate exhibits, including hours of CCTV footage as well as audio and video recordings.

He told the court he may begin writing the judgment on Saturday.

Lehrmann is suing Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a February 2021 report on The Project where Brittany Higgins was interviewed about her alleged rape in a Parliament House office in March 2019. He has always denied any sexual contact occurred.

Streamed to thousands

The Federal Court trial has taken 22 days, with Lehrmann and Wilkinson appearing in court each day.

The trial’s YouTube livestream has at times been watched by almost

Justice Michael Lee must sift a mountain of conflicting and often dubious evidence.

20,000 viewers who saw Lehrmann and Higgins each gave testimony over several days.

They have both suffered significant attacks on their credibility, with lies and inconsistencies revealed in their differing versions of what occurred.

This was the first time Lehrmann has given evidence under oath about what he claims happened – or did not happen – as he had the right to remain silent during the prior criminal trial.

Ten and Wilkinson’s lawyers claim Lehrmann is a liar who would say and do anything that suited his interests, urging the court to reject his account that no sexual activity occurred.

Lehrmann’s legal team argues Ms Higgins made up the rape allegation to save her job after she was found naked, alone and passed out in the office of then boss Senator Linda Reynolds.

Lisa Wilkinson faced a gruelling ordeal during her days in the witness box. Photo: AAP

Ten and Wilkinson have run three defences, saying the ex-Liberal staffer was not identifiable in the report, that it was true the alleged rape occurred, and that they acted reasonably in publishing a news report of public interest.

Witnesses who gave evidence include Ms Higgins’ family, staff members from Parliament House, police officers who investigated the allegations, a forensic toxicologist and a British lip reader.

Lehrmann previously sued both and the ABC for defamation over their reports on Higgins’ allegations.

In out-of-court settlements with both publishers, Lehrmann received no damages but was paid a total of $445,000 to cover the legal costs of pursuing the cases.

He also received a fortnightly payment of $4000 to cover his rent in exchange for giving exclusive interviews to Seven Network over the allegations and aftermath.

‘Woman of the Year’ award

Higgins sued the federal government over alleged workplace breaches and received over $2.4 million in compensation through a settlement.

Media reports on Higgins’ allegations triggered the “March 4 Justice” which spread across the nation in March 2021.

That same year, Higgins was named Marie Claire‘s Woman of the Year and received an ANU fellowship with the Australian arm of the Global Institute for Woman’s Leadership established by former prime minister Julia Gillard.

Lehrmann’s trial in the ACT Supreme Court on a charge of raping Ms Higgins was vacated in June 2022 after Wilkinson gave a speech while accepting Logie for The Project‘s report.

The postponed trial was derailed by juror misconduct in October that year.

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

Lehrmann has been charged with allegedly raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021 and remains before Queensland courts.

He has not yet entered a plea but lawyers have indicated he denies that allegation.

  • 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
  • National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028
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