Bruce Lehrmann Faces Uphill Battle in Appealing Defamation Case Loss

Bruce Lehrmann loses defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson, with court ruling he likely raped Brittany Higgins. Higgins hopes ruling sets new standard for sexual assault victims' testimonies.

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Geeta Pillai
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Bruce Lehrmann Faces Uphill Battle in Appealing Defamation Case Loss

Bruce Lehrmann Faces Uphill Battle in Appealing Defamation Case Loss

Bruce Lehrmann, the man accused of raping former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019, has 28 days to appeal his defamation case loss against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson. However, Lehrmann faces significant challenges in finding lawyers willing to take on his case and funding the estimated $6-8 million in legal costs.

In a major courtroom defeat earlier this week, Federal Court Justice Michael Lee ruled against Lehrmann and in favor of Ten and Wilkinson. The judge found that on the balance of probabilities, Lehrmann did rape Higgins in a ministerial office after a night out drinking in Canberra. Ten and Wilkinson succeeded in their truth defense, arguing the rape most likely took place as Higgins alleged.

Higgins, who was at the center of the high-profile case, released a statement expressing hope that the court's decision will set a new standard for how courts consider the testimonies of sexual assault victims. "I hope this judgment sets a new standard for how courts consider the testimonies of victims of sexual assault," Higgins said. "I respect the judge's trauma-informed approach and believe it will serve as a model for other cases."

Why this matters: The Lehrmann defamation case and its outcome have significant implications for how sexual assault allegations are handled in the legal system and media. The ruling in favor of Ten and Wilkinson's truth defense sets a precedent for considering the credibility and experiences of sexual assault survivors in court proceedings.

Higgins also extended an olive branch to her former employer, Senator Linda Reynolds, and Reynolds' former chief of staff, Fiona Brown. "I'm sorry for the hurt they experienced in the aftermath of my rape," Higgins stated. "I respect the court's observations about the many people affected by the media discourse and legal battles. I hope we can find common ground with a better understanding of each other's experiences."

Justice Lee's judgment was critical of the media's role in the case, particularly Wilkinson and Network Ten's handling of Higgins' allegations. However, the judge dismissed claims of a politically motivated cover-up by the Morrison government. The case has raised questions about Australia's defamation laws and the media's responsibility in reporting on sensitive issues like sexual assault.

For Lehrmann, the path forward in appealing the defamation case loss appears challenging. With substantial legal costs looming and the judge's findings against him, Lehrmann may struggle to find legal representation and financial support for an appeal. As Higgins stated, it is now "time to heal" from the drawn-out legal proceedings that have taken a toll on her health, memory, and relationships over the past five years.

Key Takeaways

  • Bruce Lehrmann lost defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson.
  • Court ruled Lehrmann likely raped Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019.
  • Higgins hopes ruling sets new standard for considering sexual assault victims' testimonies.
  • Lehrmann faces challenges in finding lawyers and funding for appeal due to legal costs.
  • Higgins extends apology to former employer and staff, says "time to heal" from case.