Brittany Higgins, the former Liberal staffer who accused her former co-worker Bruce Lehrmann of rape in 2019, says she is willing to defend the truth as a witness in a civil case brought on by Lehrmann.
The case is over the media coverage of the rape allegations made by Higgins. On Tuesday, Lehrmann filed statements of claim in the Federal Court against media outlets Network Ten and News Life Media, a News Corp Australia company, over their coverage of the rape allegations.
The lawsuit also named Lisa Wilkinson, host of Channel Ten’s The Project, and News political editor Samantha Maiden.
In his lawsuit against Ten, Lehrmann alleges that he was defamed by three publications broadcast on The Project and 10 play in February 2021 in which Wilkinson interviewed Higgins. Two articles written by Maiden and published on the same day have also been cited in the lawsuit.
Lehrmann claims that the broadcasts contained false claims that he raped Higgins and that he continued to do so when she woke up crying and asking him to stop.
The broadcasts also contained false claims that he crushed himself against Higgins, bruising her leg, and left her in a “state of undress”.
Lehrmann says that the media outlets were recklessly indifferent to the truth or falsity of the claims and published them without giving him a chance to respond.
Lehrmann is seeking damages, including aggravated damages, and interest against the media outlets and injunctions to prevent them from publishing further reports on the rape claims. He has also asked the court to extend the one-year limitation period for defamation proceedings until the date he filed the lawsuits.
In October, Lehrmann’s criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court was derailed due to juror misconduct, and the charges were later dropped due to the impacts a second trial would have on Higgins’ mental health.
The ACT government has launched an independent inquiry into the handling of Higgins’ rape allegations by police, prosecutors, and a victims’ support service.
Higgins reposted a tweet from December when reports first emerged that Lehrmann might sue for defamation. “Following recent developments, I feel the need to make it clear if required I am willing to defend the truth as a witness in any potential civil cases brought about by Mr Lehrmann,” she wrote.
Lehrmann is being represented by Sydney law firm Mark O’Brien Legal.