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Higgins left ‘bread crumb’ lies to keep job, court told

Bruce Lehrmann's lawyer has taken aim at Brittany Higgins' credibility in his closing statement.

Bruce Lehrmann's lawyer has taken aim at Brittany Higgins' credibility in his closing statement. Photo: AAP

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins told a series of lies about being raped by Bruce Lehrmann because she thought she was going to be fired, a judge has been told.

Lehrmann’s counsel Steven Whybrow SC told a Federal Court defamation trial that Higgins left a “false trail” after realising she had been found naked and asleep on a couch in Senator Linda Reynolds’ office in March 2019.

“The bread crumbs and the falsity and the preparedness of Ms Higgins to say things that suit her narrative and her interests is quite compelling,” he told Justice Michael Lee on Friday.

Lehrmann denies any sexual activity occurred.

He is suing Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for defamation over a February 2021 report on The Project in which Higgins was interviewed about the rape claim.

Whybrow said Higgins had planted the seeds of the assault allegation to avoid a “potential career-limiting or career-ending moment”.

Earlier in his submissions, he described Higgins as someone who had no qualms in obfuscating or telling complete falsehoods.

Whybrow insisted no sexual activity occurred between Higgins and his client, saying she could have undressed in anticipation of something happening but then fallen asleep waiting.

Lehrmann could have come back to find Higgins passed out and naked, and decided to “completely disappear”, he said.

There was plausibility in Lehrmann’s claims he returned to Parliament House to retrieve his keys and had annotated Question Time briefs with notes about French submarine contracts while he was there, the barrister said.

Lee said if the independent evidence was accepted, the 23-year-old Lehrmann was seen kissing Higgins, a woman he found attractive, before he returned to Parliament House while his girlfriend waited at home.

“Now does a man in a situation like that have French submarine contracts on his mind or does he have something else on his mind?” he said.

Whybrow questioned what would have happened if media organisations had told Higgins to go to the police first and to wait before speaking publicly.

“If that had happened, we would not have had what appears to have been a virus of madness that spread amongst everybody,” he said.

Public broadcasts about Higgins’ rape allegation were made without question or pushback, Whybrow argued.

“To a degree, anybody trying to provide a counter-narrative to that story is shouted down as some sort of rape apologist or anti-woman or misogynist,” he said.

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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