Defamation Verdict: Bruce Lehrmann Loses Case Against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson

Defamation Verdict: Bruce Lehrmann Loses Case Against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson

Bruce Lehrmann has recently lost a high-profile defamation case against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson. The verdict, delivered by Justice Michael Lee, determined that Lehrmann was not defamed by Wilkinson and Ten when they broadcasted an interview with Brittany Higgins, in which she alleged that Lehrmann raped her in Parliament House in 2019.

During the two-and-a-half-hour live oral summary, Justice Lee provided a detailed account of his findings, stating that, based on the balance of probabilities, Lehrmann did rape Higgins. Lee described Lehrmann as being determined to have sex with Higgins despite her inebriation, stating that Lehrmann's actions demonstrated a disregard for her consent or understanding of the situation.

Lehrmann, who denied the rape allegations and pleaded not guilty at his trial in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, faced criticism from Justice Lee for his inconsistent explanations of the events surrounding the alleged rape. Lee highlighted Lehrmann's admission of telling multiple stories, including two that were lies, about the purpose of his after-hours visit to Parliament House with Higgins.

Despite Lehrmann's claims of innocence, Lee dismissed his explanations as "fanciful," particularly regarding his purported reason for returning to the minister's office late at night. Lee also questioned Lehrmann's credibility, noting discrepancies between his testimony and evidence presented during the trial.

Throughout the trial, Higgins provided emotional testimony, recounting in graphic detail the alleged rape and the subsequent deterioration of her relationship with her employer after reporting the incident. Lee acknowledged Higgins's account, emphasizing her distress and the serious nature of the allegations.

The case drew significant attention, with Lee describing it as a "Rorschach test" for observers, highlighting the broader cultural and political conflicts it represents. Despite the outcome, the trial shed light on issues of sexual assault, consent, and workplace dynamics, sparking important conversations and raising awareness about these critical issues.

In his judgment, Lee also criticized the conduct of Channel Ten's The Project team, noting their failure to adequately verify the reliability of their sources and their handling of communication with Lehrmann. However, he ultimately found that Ten and Wilkinson had proved the imputation that Lehrmann raped Higgins to be true on the balance of probabilities.

Lehrmann's decision to pursue legal action against Ten and Wilkinson, following the abandonment of his criminal trial due to juror misconduct, proved to be unsuccessful. Despite the potential for damages had he won the case, Lehrmann now faces the possibility of bearing the costs of the trial.

The verdict marks the conclusion of a sprawling legal saga that has captivated the nation, highlighting the complexities and challenges of addressing allegations of sexual assault within the political sphere. While Lehrmann maintains his innocence, the judgment underscores the importance of thorough investigation and accountability in cases of sexual misconduct.

As the parties await the deadline for filing submissions for costs, the outcome of the trial serves as a reminder of the ongoing need for vigilance and action to address issues of sexual violence and promote a culture of respect and accountability in all spheres of society.

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