Bruce Lehrmann is allowed to sue Channel 10, Lisa Wilkinson,, ABC for defamation

Bruce Lehrmann IS allowed to sue Channel 10, Lisa Wilkinson, and the ABC for defamation over Brittany Higgins’ comments – in what’s set to be the trial of the year

Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation cases against Lisa Wilkinson, Channel 10, and the ABC will go ahead, a court has heard.

Justice Michael Lee ruled in the Federal Court on Friday that it was reasonable for Mr Lehrmann to have launched legal proceedings against the media giants outside the usual 12-month time limit.

He claimed he was too unwell and caught up in criminal proceedings to sue immediately after the news outlets aired Brittany Higgins’ claims he raped her.  

Mr Lehrmann filed lawsuits in February against Wilkinson, Channel 10, digital website and journalist Samantha Maiden for defamation over a TV interview and online article during which Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped in Parliament House in 2019.

He was not named in both articles, published on February 15, 2021, but claims multiple people in his circle were able to identify him as the alleged rapist.

In April, the former political staffer also launched defamation proceedings against the ABC over its broadcast of the address at the National Press Club in February, 2022, during which Ms Higgins made the same allegations.

The video was then posted on the ABC’s YouTube channel and amassed 127,000 views by the time Mr Lehrmann’s claim was filed.

Bruce Lehrmann’s (pictured centre, outside court) defamation cases against Channel 10, Lisa Wilkinson, and the ABC will go ahead 

Mr Lehrmann was not named in the address, but claims he was identifiable because his name and photo made national headlines when he was charged with sexual assault in August 2021 over Ms Higgins’ allegations – six months before the press club address. 

An interlocutory hearing was called to consider whether there should be an extension to the 12-month limitation period in which an applicant is allowed to sue for defamation. Mr Lehrmann filed the cases two years after publication.

Mr Lehrmann’s lawyer Matthew Richardson SC argued it was unreasonable for his client to have launched a defamation case within the 12-month limit because he was unsure as to whether he was going to be the subject of a police investigation.

But lawyers for, Channel 10 and Wilkinson argued the opposite.

They claimed there was ample time to launch a defamation case after the stories were aired in February 2021 and when Mr Lehrmannn was charged with sexual assault in August of that year.

Mr Lehrmann was called to the witness box for the first during the first day of the hearing, in March.

He described his ‘outrage’ as he watched The Project presenter Lisa Wilkinson’s interview for the first time in the chambers of his lawyer Warwick Korn on February 15, 2021.

The viewing took place after a six-hour meeting in Mr Korn’s office to address the article published in earlier that day. 

While not named in the Wilkinson interview with Higgins (pair pictured above), Mr Lehrmann argued his identity would have been known in political circles

While not named in the Wilkinson interview with Higgins (pair pictured above), Mr Lehrmann argued his identity would have been known in political circles

Mr Korn was due to give evidence about that meeting and a series of texts Mr Lehrmann sent on the day Ms Higgins aired her rape allegations.

Justice Michael Lee also shut down a request by Wilkinson’s lawyer Sue Chrysanthou to access 39,823 pages of Bruce Lehrmann’s phone records, dating back to 2017.

He described it as a ‘fishing expedition’ with ‘no apparent relevance’ when reading his reasons for rejecting the application.

The phone records were obtained by Australian Federal Police during an investigation into Brittany Higgins’ allegations that he raped her in Parliament House in 2019. Mr Lehrmann has always denied the allegations.

The phone data not only include his messages, they included apps he opened, the pages he visited, GPS tracking, call logs, images searched items, right down to website cookies stored on his phone.

‘This is not some sort of roving inquiry into everything Mr Lehrmann thought or said,’ Justice Lee said.

It was also revealed that Mr Lehrmann texted a friend and said ‘I won’t be going to prison’ on the night Ms Higgins accused a ‘male colleague’ of rape.