Lehrmann fights to maintain defamation actions alive
By Miklos Bolza in Sydney
BRUCE Lehrmann faces the prospect that two late-filed defamation circumstances over media studies on the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins could possibly be dismissed.
In a Federal Court docket listening to on Thursday, Community Ten, Information Corp and journalist Lisa Wilkinson all attacked the previous Liberal staffer’s lawsuits, arguing the circumstances had been filed outdoors the required 12-month interval.
The circumstances had been launched on February 7, virtually two years after Ten program The Venture and a separate Information article by Samantha Maiden reported on Ms Higgins’ allegations.
Ms Higgins accused Mr Lehrmann of raping her within the Parliament Home workplace of former minister Linda Reynolds, who they each labored for, in 2019. He strenuously denies this declare.
Mr Lehrmann’s barrister, Matthew Richardson SC, mentioned it could not have been cheap for his shopper to launch the defamation circumstances sooner due to ongoing legal proceedings.
Australian Federal Police charged Mr Lehrmann in August 2021. The trial jury was discharged in October final 12 months due to potential jury misconduct.
Prosecutors mentioned they’d not pursue the costs in December, citing issues for Ms Higgins’ psychological well being.
Mr Lehrmann had the good thing about the complete 12-month interval and shouldn’t have been pressured to launch proceedings within the six months earlier than he was charged, Mr Richardson instructed Justice Michael Lee on Thursday.
Inconsistencies between proof given by the legislation pupil in courtroom final week and WhatsApp messages despatched on February 15, 2021, about recommendation given in a six-hour assembly with lawyer Warwick Korn could possibly be defined, Mr Richardson mentioned.
Whereas the previous staffer mentioned in his texts that legal costs had been “off the playing cards” and he can be “up for thousands and thousands” in defamation damages, he claimed he was placing on a courageous face for these he knew.
It was “implausible” Mr Korn would have truly given this recommendation as a legal lawyer, the courtroom heard.
Submissions by Ten and Information that Mr Lehrmann was a “routine liar” needs to be rejected, Mr Richardson mentioned.
“That is unfair to a human being who discovered himself in that scenario.”
Ten’s barrister, Matthew Collins KC, argued Mr Lehrmann’s focus had been on defamation from the day he seen the media studies and he had compiled a listing of pleasant media retailers, PR representatives and a “hit record” of these he needed to sue within the months after.
Accusing Mr Lehrmann of giving unreliable proof, Dr Collins urged the courtroom to have a look at the messages despatched on February 15 as a greater indicator of whether or not defamation motion was thought-about on the time.
The messages confirmed he was instructed he had a “red-hot defamation case” and that legal prosecution was unlikely, Dr Collins mentioned.
“Why on earth was he sitting on his arms for a 12 months?” the barrister requested.
Dr Collins additionally argued the previous staffer had not caught to his proper to silence forward of the legal case, saying he had “enthusiastically embraced” the prospect to inform his full story in a recorded interview with the AFP in April 2021.
Wilkinson’s barrister, Sue Chrysanthou SC, mentioned in addition to talking to the AFP, Mr Lehrmann had additionally taken the weird step of constructing a public assertion by way of his legal professionals “completely and unequivocally” denying the costs.
“That isn’t an individual who’s retaining his playing cards near his chest as to his defence,” she mentioned.
These public statements contradicted Mr Lehrmann’s claims he would have been prejudiced by beginning the lawsuits by being publicly pressured to offer proof in a civil courtroom whereas the legal issues had been ongoing, the media organisations declare.
As a part of one more reason why the extension of time needs to be rejected, Ms Chrysanthou mentioned Wilkinson had not been despatched a issues discover or a suggestion to settle the dispute previous to the circumstances being filed and had solely came upon the day after the lawsuits had been launched by way of media studies.
Justice Lee has reserved his choice.
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Ian Meikle, editor