Bruce Lehrmann SUES Channel 10 and news.com.au for defamation over Lisa Wilkinson interview with Brittany Higgins on The Project and article airing her Parliament House rape claims
- Bruce Lehrmann sues media giants over Brittany Higgins coverage
- Statements of claim lodged in the Federal Court on Tuesday
- Mr Lehrmann was accused of raping Ms Higgins in 2019
- Case against him was eventually dropped by ACT public prosecutor
Bruce Lehrmann has filed defamation claims against Channel 10 and news.com.au – the two outlets that first detailed Brittany Higgins’ allegations of rape against him – in the Federal Court.
Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers, defamation specialists Mark O’Brien Legal, lodged statements of claim initiating legal action against the media giants on Tuesday afternoon.
There are two cases – one is against Network 10 over an interview aired on The Project in February 2021 where Ms Higgins claimed to host Lisa Wilkinson that she was raped by ‘a male colleague’ in Parliament House in 2019.
The second is against News Life Media, an umbrella company of News Corp, which runs news.com.au, over coverage which featured the same allegations by Ms Higgins.
The original TV interview and online article about Ms Higgins’ allegations were published in tandem.
Mr Lehrmann wasn’t named during the TV show nor was he publicly identified as Ms Higgins’ alleged rapist until August 2021, when he was formally charged with sexual assault.
Bruce Lehrmann (pictured outside ACT Supreme Court) has filed defamation claims against Channel 10 and news.com.au
He was tried in a month-long hearing in the ACT Supreme Court in October last year, but the case was aborted due to misconduct by a jury member.
The charge against him was then was dropped by the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC in November amid fears a second trial would negatively affect Ms Higgins’ mental health.
Mr Lehrmann had pleaded not guilty and continues to maintain his innocence.
A source close to the former ministerial staffer previously said Mr Lehrmann will claim he was not contacted for comment before the Channel 10 interview went to air.
Channel 10 denied that claim and said comment was sought, but they did not receive a response.
It comes after Daily Mail Australia separately revealed the apology letter Channel 10 sent to Chief Justice Lucy McCallum, the judge in Mr Lehrmann’s rape trial, about Ms Wilkinson’s ill-fated Logies speech.
The veteran journalist came under fire last year for thanking Ms Higgins in her acceptance speech for the Outstanding News Coverage Logie award, which she was given for her interview with Ms Higgins.
A statement of claim has been filed against Network 10 over an interview aired on The Project where Brittany Higgins claimed to host Lisa Wilkinson that she was raped (pictured together)
Her speech was televised nationally and forced the trial to be postponed from June to October, with defence lawyers arguing it could prejudice a jury.
During a hearing to discuss potential repercussions of the speech on June 21, Justice McCallum told the court that Ms Wilkinson sought advice on whether the speech was appropriate in a meeting with Mr Drumgold the previous week.
The chief justice said Ms Wilkinson went ahead with her plans for the speech, in spite of Mr Drumgold’s warning.
However, Daily Mail Australia exclusively obtained the carefully-worded letter of apology sent to Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers, the DPP and Justice McCallum on behalf of Channel 10 and Wilkinson the next day, on June 22.
In the letter, the executive vice-president of Channel 10, Beverley McGarvey claimed that neither the network’s senior legal counsel or Ms Wilkinson realised they had been cautioned about the speech in the pre-Logies meeting with Mr Drumgold.
In the aftermath of that memo, Wilkinson, The Project and Channel 10 programs did not comment on the case except to provide brief news updates. Wilkinson was reportedly barred from speaking about the case on air.