Brittany Higgins
Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped in a parliamentary office by Bruce Lehrmann. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

Brittany Higgins defends ‘unwavering’ account of rape

Miklos Bolza April 9, 2024

Brittany Higgins’ lawyers have urged a court to reject credit attacks by her alleged rapist Bruce Lehrmann, saying her conduct was consistent with someone suffering trauma.

Higgins’ barrister Nicholas Owens SC defended her “unwavering, consistent and clear account” of the alleged rape in submissions made public by the Federal Court ahead of Monday’s judgment.

Mr Owens argued because Ms Higgins was only a witness in Lehrmann’s defamation case against Network Ten – and not the party suing or being sued – she could not fully respond to attacks on her credibility.

Any claimed inconsistencies in her statements had not been properly examined through evidence, particularly of her mental health or reasons for altered perceptions and memories, he wrote.

Bruce Lehmann
 Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehmann claims he was defamed by Network Ten. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Lehrmann’s submissions that Ms Higgins was dishonest should be “decisively rejected”, Mr Owens wrote.

“Much of the conduct that Mr Lehrmann contends is dishonest is in fact entirely consistent with Ms Higgins having been raped.”

How Ms Higgins acted, including by neglecting to visit a doctor after the alleged rape, reflected how a person’s memory and conduct could be affected by traumatic events, he argued.

“For the court to treat the credit attacks made against Ms Higgins as a reason to disbelieve her about her rape would be to use a consequence of that rape as a basis to deny its occurrence,” he wrote.

Ms Higgins alleges Lehrmann raped her in a Parliament House office in March 2019 while the pair were working for Liberal senator Linda Reynolds.

He denies the allegation and a criminal trial was abandoned in 2022 because of juror misconduct, leaving no findings against him.

Justice Michael Lee had been set to hand down one of the most anticipated judgments in the nation on April 4.

But he postponed the decision until Monday after Ten brought in new evidence regarding Lehrmann’s 2023 Spotlight interview with the Seven Network.

The judge reopened the case and last week heard allegations Lehrmann abused the processes of the court by leaking private, confidential texts from Ms Higgins before his interview.

Taylor Auerbach
 Former Seven producer Taylor Auerbach made a series of claims against Bruce Lehrmann. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

During the reopened trial, ex-Seven producer Taylor Auerbach claimed he saw Lehrmann buying cocaine and ordering sex workers in a Sydney hotel paid for by the network.

In an affidavit, Mr Auerbach said Lehrmann sent him messages between Ms Higgins and a former boyfriend and later messages between her and journalist Peter FitzSimons.

These texts made up part of a confidential police file offered to Lehrmann during the criminal trial and for which he gave an implicit promise not to use for any other purpose, the court heard.

Mr Auerbach’s lawyer Rebekah Giles filed submissions with the court which were made public on Tuesday.

In that document, she rejected Seven’s claims her client was motivated by vengeance or some other ill-will towards the broadcaster in coming forward to give evidence.

His claims had not been shown to be false, including allegations Seven paid Lehrmann for massages and drugs before the Spotlight interview, the solicitor said.

The former Liberal staffer could have personally responded to the claims in court but chose not to, Ms Giles argued.

“His silence was deafening such that the court should find that his evidence could not have assisted him.”

In his case against Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson, Lehrmann claims he was defamed by a February 2021 interview on The Project with Ms Higgins.

He is seeking substantial damages, saying his reputation was ruined.

But lawyers for Ten and Wilkinson have argued Lehrmann is a liar whose credibility was shot and who abused the processes of the court because of the leaked material and false claims.

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