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‘Vindication’ after court’s Lehrmann rape finding

Network Ten says a judge’s finding that Bruce Lehrmann likely raped Brittany Higgins is an “unmitigated disaster” for the former Liberal staffer.

Bruce Lehrmann leaves the Federal Court after last month's defamation judgement. Photo: AAP

Bruce Lehrmann leaves the Federal Court after last month's defamation judgement. Photo: AAP

Network Ten’s lawyers called the result “vindication” for the company and its belief and support for Higgins during Lehrmann’s long-running defamation case.

“It’s an unmitigated disaster for Bruce Lehrmann,” Ten’s lawyer Justin Quill said.

The parties have been instructed to apply for costs by Monday, with Quill saying he is confident Ten will recoup at least some of its legal fees.

He said the result was a warning for other prospective plaintiffs looking to “make a quick buck”.

“You can come up with a con that might get you through a TV interview, or an interview with your bosses, or down at the pub with your mates,” he said.

“But when you come to the court, and you are cross-examined, and forensically examined, you can’t get away with it.”

Quill was asked what Lehrmann should do next and he suggested “go get another degree”.

Federal Court Justice Michael Lee ruled against Lerhmann in his marathon defamation suit against the network and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for airing the allegations, finding on the balance of probabilities a sexual assault took place on a couch in Parliament House in 2019.

“It is more likely than not that Mr Lehrmann’s state of mind was such that he was so intent upon gratification to be indifferent to Ms Higgins’ consent,” Justice Lee said in delivering his judgment on Monday,

“And hence (he) went ahead with sexual intercourse without caring.

“Mr Lehrmann raped Ms Higgins.”

Requiring a lower threshold for proof than a criminal trial, the civil ruling does not mean Lehrmann has been convicted of any offence.

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According to Mr Quill, Lehrmann’s legal team did not expect Higgins to appear as a witness in the defamation case and give evidence about the the alleged assault.

“Channel Ten couldn’t have defended this case without Brittany,” he said.

Before the alleged assault, the two staffers were seen kissing and touching during after-work drinks in Canberra.

They later returned to parliament, where Justice Lee said they ended up on the couch in the office of their then-boss, Senator Linda Reynolds.

Lehrmann’s account that he was returning to Parliament House to retrieve a set of keys, and never intended to have sex with Higgins, were among numerous lies he told the court, Justice Lee determined.

“He was a 23-year-old male cheating on his girlfriend, having just ‘hooked up’ with a woman he found sexually attractive,” Justice Lee said.

“Human experience suggests what he then wanted to happen is not exactly shrouded in mystery.”

Wilkinson said she hopes the judgment gives strength to women around the country.

“All the generous members of the public who have approached me almost every single day to express, often through tears, their unwavering support,” she said.

Lehrmann made no comment to media as he left the court.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

– AAP

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