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Final statements in defamation trial over Higgins rape report

Bruce Lehrmann's case over a program featuring a Brittany Higgins interview is set for closings.

Bruce Lehrmann's case over a program featuring a Brittany Higgins interview is set for closings. Photos: Getty

With all witnesses interrogated and evidence tendered, Bruce Lehrmann’s long-running defamation trial against Network Ten has entered its final stage.

On Thursday, the Federal Court is set to hear closing submissions by lawyers representing Lehrmann as well as those he is suing for defamation, Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson.

He claims his reputation was ruined by an interview featuring Wilkinson and Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins that aired on The Project in February 2021.

In the show, Higgins said she was sexually assaulted in the Parliament House office of the pair’s then-boss, Senator Linda Reynolds, in March 2019.

She also claimed she was pressured into staying silent about the incident and that she was forced to choose between keeping her job and making a police complaint.

Lerhmann denies raping Higgins, saying no sexual contact occurred between them.

In the trial, which is expected to finish on Friday, Justice Michael Lee has heard evidence from key witnesses, including significant attacks on the credibility of both Lehrmann and Higgins.

The judge has also heard testimony from others at Parliament House, Higgins’ family members and Australian Federal Police officers about the alleged rape and its aftermath.

Lee will have to determine if Lehrmann was identified despite not being named in Ten’s report.

If the judge finds Lehrmann was identifiable through other details, Ten is relying on the dual defences of truth and qualified privilege, for which it has to show it acted reasonably in reporting on a matter of public interest.

Lehrmann’s trial in the ACT Supreme Court on a charge of raping Higgins was derailed by juror misconduct.

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

He 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

-AAP

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