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Network Ten seeks to call fresh evidence about Bruce Lehrmann days before defamation trial

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Network Ten is set to present new evidence in the Bruce Lehrmann defamation trial just days before the judge is due to hand down his verdict.

Federal Court Justice Michael Lee was set to deliver his decision in Mr Lehrmann’s defamation case against the network and presenter Lisa Wilkinson on Thursday.

However, on Sunday the Federal Court revealed Justice Lee would hear ‘an urgent interlocutory application by Network Ten to reopen its case’ on Tuesday night.

Justice Lee had adjourned the case in December following a five-week trial and appearance from Brittany Higgins, a former Liberal staffer who alleged Mr Lehrmann raped her inside their then-boss Linda Reynolds’ office at Parliament House in March 2019.

The allegations were aired on Channel Ten‘s The Project by Wilkinson in 2021.

Network Ten has sought to 'an urgent interlocutory application' to reopen its case in defence against Bruce Lehrmann (pictured) in a defamation trial

Network Ten has sought to ‘an urgent interlocutory application’ to reopen its case in defence against Bruce Lehrmann (pictured) in a defamation trial

Wilkinson’s bombshell interview with Ms Higgins later triggered Mr Lehrmann’s defamation case.

Mr Lehrmann was not named in the 2021 interview but claims he was still able to be identified by the media.

He alleges there were four defamatory meanings aired in The Project’s report and denies allegations he raped Ms Higgins.

Ten and Wilkinson have defended the interview, saying it was true and in the public interest because it involved an alleged sexual assault in Parliament House. 

Mr Lehrmann has sought extensive damages as compensation for the alleged toll the interview took on his reputation. 

His criminal trial over the alleged rape in October 2022 was previously abandoned after a juror brought outside sources into the deliberation room. 

Prosecutors did not seek a retrial due to concerns for Ms Higgins’ mental health. 

Justice Lee previously said he would begin writing his judgement the day after the defamation trial ended.

He has been handed more than 15,000 pages of transcript and 1,000 separate exhibits – including CCTV footage and audio recordings – since the trial began.

It is expected whichever party loses the multimillion-dollar trial will appeal the decision.

The trial took place in Sydney in December and February, when Justice Michael Lee heard evidence from both Ms Higgins and Mr Lehrmann about what they claimed occurred in the office of Senator Linda Reynolds in Canberra in March 2019.

Ms Higgins said she went drinking with Mr Lehrmann and some colleagues and returned to Parliament House in the early hours of Saturday morning.

She alleged she woke up on Senator Reynolds’ couch to find Mr Lehrmann on top of her and that, despite her protests, he continued with the assault.  

Mr Lehrmann claims Network Ten and presenter Lisa Wilkinson defamed him during an interview with Brittany Higgins (pictured) in which she claimed she was raped in Parliament House

Mr Lehrmann claims Network Ten and presenter Lisa Wilkinson defamed him during an interview with Brittany Higgins (pictured) in which she claimed she was raped in Parliament House

A security guard told the court she found Ms Higgins naked and asleep in the office hours after he left.

Mr Lehrmann has consistently claimed nothing sexual happened between him and his then-fellow Liberal staffer, and has consistently denied raping her.

During the trial, Justice Lee saw Ms Higgins and Mr Lehrmann undergo aggressive cross-examination.

Both had their credibility successfully attacked.

Mr Lehrmann was caught using different reasons for why he had to return to Parliament House after hours, including that he was dropping documents off and that he had returned to drink whiskey.

He told the Federal Court he had gone back to add notes to Question Time folders after receiving information from work colleagues during drinks earlier that night.

It was the first time he was made to give evidence under oath in court as he exercised his right to remain silent during an earlier criminal trial, which was aborted due to juror misconduct.

Ten’s lawyers told the court Mr Lehrmann as a ‘fundamentally dishonest man’ who was prepared to make bizarre, absurd lies in order to further his cause.

Ms Higgins also conceded her versions of events had changed over time, including an admission that a bruise in a photo sent to Ten might not have been caused during the alleged assault.

Most of the arguments from Mr Lehrmann’s legal team centred on Ms Higgins’ claims of a government cover-up to prevent the rape being reported.

Numerous documents and other evidence were used to show Ms Higgins did not experience pressure from her bosses to remain silent about what she claimed occurred.

Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers have accused her of lying to keep her job after being found naked in her workplace.

Other witnesses at the defamation trial included a colleague who said she saw the pair kissing and touching each other before leaving for Parliament House that night.

An English lip-reader, after observing CCTV footage, told the court Mr Lehrmann had been ‘plying’ Ms Higgins with alcohol in a bar.

While the primary defamation claim revolves around whether the rape took place, Justice Lee also needs to consider another option – that Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins had consensual sex that night, contrary to both of their testimonies.

In that event, Ten’s lawyers have argued the former Liberal staffer should not even be given nominal damages as he would have lied to the Federal Court and during the criminal trial against him.

In ordering damages, Justice Lee will also consider the conduct of Ten and Wilkinson, including a decision to greenlight a speech given by the journalist accepting a silver Logie for The Project segment.

That speech was given days before a criminal trial was due to commence and resulted in the case being postponed.

Ten and Wilkinson (pictured) have defended the interview, saying it was true and in the public interest because it involved an alleged sexual assault in Parliament House

Ten and Wilkinson (pictured) have defended the interview, saying it was true and in the public interest because it involved an alleged sexual assault in Parliament House

Mr Lehrmann has settled two other defamation proceedings with news.com.au and the ABC, receiving $445,000 in legal costs.

But his legal bill, should he lose against Ten, will be far higher after a lengthy and hotly contested hearing.

Whoever wins the case on Thursday, it is expected the losing side will file an appeal.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028



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