Judge finds Bruce Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins in Parliament House (

Bruce Lehrmann has lost his multimillion-dollar defamation suit after a judge found Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson had proved the former federal Liberal staffer raped his then colleague Brittany Higgins in Parliament House.

In a historic decision on Monday, Federal Court Justice Michael Lee upheld Ten and Wilkinson’s truth defence to Lehrmann’s defamation claim over an interview with Higgins broadcast on The Project in February 2021.

Bruce Lehrmann leaves the Federal Court in Sydney after losing his defamation suit.© Dominic Lorrimer

Lee was satisfied that Ten and Wilkinson had proved to the civil standard – on the balance of probabilities – that Lehrmann raped Higgins in the Parliament House office of their then boss, Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, in March 2019.

“I am satisfied that 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’s consent and hence went ahead with sexual intercourse without caring whether she consented,” Lee said.

This is lower than the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt. Lee’s decision does not amount to a finding of criminal guilt.

Lehrmann’s criminal trial was aborted in October 2022 due to juror misconduct and the charges were later dropped altogether owing to concerns about Higgins’ mental health.

Lehrmann has always maintained his innocence.

Lehrmann launched defamation proceedings last year against Ten and Wilkinson, a former co-host of The Project, alleging the interview with Higgins conveyed the defamatory meaning that he was guilty of raping Higgins in Parliament House.

Lee found that the broadcast identified Lehrmann even though he was not named, owing to the description given of the alleged perpetrator.

The media parties sought to rely chiefly on a defence of truth, but also on the defence of qualified privilege, which relates to publications of public interest where a media company and its journalists can show they acted reasonably.

As part of his assessment of the qualified privilege defence, Lee was required to consider the conduct of Ten and Wilkinson collectively as well as separately. He found that defence had not been established.

More to come

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