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Bruce Lehrmann faces rape charges in Queensland

Former federal Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann has been named as the man facing rape charges in Queensland after a failed legal battle to keep his identity suppressed.

Lehrmann, who has not been required to appear in court and remains on bail, faces two counts of raping a woman at Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, in October 2021, which he has denied.

Brisbane Supreme Court on Thursday declined to overturn a magistrate’s decision that an ongoing non-publication order was not “necessary to protect the safety of (Lehrmann)”.

Lawyers for the 28-year-old had mounted a weeks-long legal effort to maintain Lehrmann’s anonymity after Queensland changed its laws this month to no longer ban the publication of the names of people charged with certain sex offences unless they face trial.

The former federal ministerial staffer was the subject of national media attention after being charged with the rape of Brittany Higgins in the office of then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds at Parliament House in March 2019 while both were employed by the senator.

Lehrmann denied the allegations and the case ended in a mistrial with prosecutors declining to proceed with a new trial out of concern for Higgins’ welfare.

Barrister Andrew Hoare told the Supreme Court on Thursday that Lehrmann’s psychiatrist had “grave concerns” for his client’s mental health if he was named by media as facing rape charges.

Justice Peter Applegarth found that the magistrate had not made errors when considering the “nature, degree and consequences” of the claimed risk to Lehrmann’s safety.

Justice Applegarth also determined the magistrate was right to have considered the apparent inconsistencies between Lehrmann’s private claims about his mental health issues and his participation in four televised interviews between June and August this year.

Zander Croft, a lawyer for several media companies who opposed keeping Lehrmann’s name suppressed, said the verdict was a win for open justice and the public’s right to know what happens in courtrooms.

-AAP

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