Bruce Lehrmann, a former political aide, has taken legal action against two media companies for their coverage of rape allegations made against him by a former colleague.
Lehrmann filed statements of claim in the Federal Court on Tuesday, February 7, against Network Ten and News Life Media, the News Corp company behind News.com.au.
Brittany Higgins, who worked alongside Lehrmann in 2019, accused him of raping her in a Parliament House office. Lehrmann has vehemently denied the allegations and maintains that he and Higgins never had any sexual interaction.
A criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court against Lehrmann was abandoned in October due to juror misconduct. The charges were later dropped by the prosecutor due to concerns about the impact a second trial would have on Higgins’ mental health.
Mark O’Brien Legal, a Sydney law firm, is representing Lehrmann in the defamation proceedings. The ACT government has also launched an independent inquiry into the handling of Higgins’ rape allegations by police, prosecutors, and a victim’s support service.
In his statement of claim, Lehrmann alleges that the two media organizations caused significant harm to his reputation by publishing false and defamatory statements about him. The statements allegedly implied that he committed the crime of rape and that he was a danger to women in the workplace.
Lehrmann is seeking compensation for harm to his reputation, along with an injunction to prevent further publication of the defamatory material. He is also seeking an order requiring the two media companies to publish an apology and retraction.
The outcome of this legal action will likely have significant ramifications for the media companies, as well as for the wider issue of media accountability for their reporting on sexual assault cases. The case is set to go to trial in the Federal Court in the coming months.