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Lehrmann settles defamation case with ABC but accuses Ten

Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann has settled a defamation case with the ABC over the broadcast of a speech by his alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins, but is continuing court action against Network Ten claiming it destroyed his reputation.

Photo: AAP

Photo: AAP

Lehrmann’s high-profile defamation case over media reports began on Wednesday with an 18-day hearing scheduled in the Federal Court.

The ABC’s barrister Dr Matthew Collins KC confirmed on Wednesday morning that a settlement had been reached.

“The matter has settled. The parties have signed or executed the deed of settlement,” he said.

Lehrmann sued the ABC over the live broadcast of a joint speech by Higgins and former Australian of the Year Grace Tame at the National Press Club in February 2022.

His defamation case against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a report on the sexual assault allegations aired on The Project in June 2021 will continue.

Lehrmann’s barristers today told the court that his identity was “perfectly obvious” in a report on The Project that he claimed destroyed his reputation in detailing Parliament House rape allegations.

“Our client comes here seeking vindication for defamation that has utterly destroyed him,” Matthew Richardson SC said.

“He comes here for justice.”

Higgins claims Lehrmann sexually assaulted her in the Parliament House office of their then-boss, defence industry minister Linda Reynolds, in March 2019, an allegation he denies.

Richardson told the court that while Lehrmann was not named in the Network Ten broadcast, details such as his position, where he was on the night of the alleged rape and where he subsequently worked allowed others to identify him.

“The identity of the person referred to must have been perfectly obvious to anyone who worked in that office or had regular dealings with him at the time,” he said.

Thanks to the rumour mill and relentless searches, within days Lehrmann was publicly named online as the alleged rapist, Richardson added.

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Richardson accused Network Ten of canonising Higgins in The Project report without applying a “scintilla of doubt” to her claims.

Lehrmann is seeking damages and aggravated damages, claiming the reports defamed him and destroyed his reputation.

His criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court over Higgins’ rape allegations was derailed by juror misconduct and prosecutors did not seek a second trial due to concerns over her mental health.

A landmark report into the ACT legal system and the Higgins case was released in August, making damning findings against now ex-director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold over his conduct during the case.

Drumgold has filed his own legal challenge to overturn these findings.

Lehrmann has separately been accused of raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021.

That criminal case is still in the committal stage and he is yet to enter a plea, but his lawyers have indicated that he denies the charges.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

-AAP

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