Bruce Lehrmann loses defamation bid, judge finds he raped Brittany Higgins

Lehrmann arrives at court

Source: AAP

A Federal Court judge has sensationally dismissed Bruce Lehrmann’s multimillion-dollar defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson after finding the former Liberal staffer raped Brittany Higgins in a Parliament House office.

While Justice Michael Lee found there were discrepancies in the evidence of all parties involved, he was scathing in his assessment of Lehrmann’s truthfulness in his evidence.

Lehrmann now faces a significant bill for the legal costs of Ten and Wilkinson.

Lee said Lehrmann was indifferent to whether a drunk Higgins consented or not before he raped her on a senator’s couch at Parliament House.

“Mr Lehrmann raped Ms Higgins,” he said of the infamous night in 2019.

While there was no evidence Lehrmann knew that Higgins did not consent to the sexual activity, he was recklessly indifferent to her rights and was “hell-bent” on having sex, the judge said.

Earlier on Monday, Lee described Lehrmann as an unreliable, dishonest witness.

“Mr Lehrmann has no compunction from departing from the truth if he thought it was expedient,” he said.

“I am satisfied that in important respects, he told deliberate lies.”

Lee made clear that his finding Lehrmann raped Higgins was made to the civil standard of proof, or balance of probabilities.

The finding was not made to the criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, and the Federal Court decision does not amount to a conviction. Nor will it lead to any criminal punishment.

Lehrmann, 28, was suing Ten and Wilkinson for defamation over a February 2021 report on The Project in which Higgins claimed he raped her in a Parliament House office almost two years prior.

Lee described both Lehrmann and Higgins as “unreliable historians” when recounting what occurred on that fateful night.

The judge said Higgins had been loose with the truth about allegations made to Ten in 2021 that members of the then-Coalition government had sought to silence her in reporting the alleged rape.

“The cover-up allegation was objectively short on facts but long on speculation,” he said.

But Lee found that any incorrect statements to police in 2019 were not inconsistent with remarks being made by a “genuine victim of sexual assault”.

He said Lehrmann was identified by Ten’s report, despite denials from the network.

Lehrmann had claimed his reputation was ruined and had sought significant damages.

Ten defended its reporting, saying claims in the interview were true and in the public interest as they involved alleged sexual abuse in Parliament House.

Lee considered whether or not, on the balance of probabilities, the alleged sexual assault occurred in the office of their then-boss, Senator Linda Reynolds.

Lehrmann has always denied the sexual assault allegation. The criminal case against him was dropped in 2022, with no findings made.

1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

-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.