‘Amounted to rape’: Lisa’s defence released

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Channel 10’s Lisa Wilkinson has filed her defence in the defamation case brought by former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann, accusing him of lying to police about taking “an intoxicated Brittany Higgins to Parliament House with the intention of having sexual intercourse”.

The defence – which pleads truth and qualified privilege – claims that “his dishonesty was deliberate and knowing and occurred in the course of the investigation of a crime, which amounted to perverting the course of justice.”

In a 22-page legal document filed by her barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC, Ms Wilkinson’s defence states that she acted as a responsible journalist and outlines the steps she took in preparation for the story – and that it will prove Mr Lehrmann’s conduct “amounted to rape”.

The Project host has also flatly denied Mr Lehrmann’s legal claim she was “recklessly indifferent to the truth” and that she was “fighting” over exclusivity for the story with news.com.au’s Samantha Maiden, revealing she never spoke to her in the preparation of the story.

The legal document outlines Ms Wilkinson’s position that Mr Lehrmann “took an intoxicated Higgins to Parliament House on 23 March 2019 with the intention of having sexual intercourse with her, despite being in a monogamous relationship with a girlfriend.”

Lisa Wilkinson has filed her defence in the defamation case. Picture: SuppliedLisa Wilkinson has filed her defence in the defamation case. Picture: Supplied

“He engaged in intercourse with Higgins and left her there on her own at about 3am, effectively naked and in an intoxicated state,’’ the legal filing states.

“In that time, he ignored 8 telephone calls from his girlfriend.”

It notes that Mr Lehrmann was terminated from his employment at Parliament House for his conduct in committing a security breach that night.

It states that Mr Lehrmann gave a record of interview to the Australian Federal Police on April 19, 2021, despite receiving the caution from police that he had the right to remain silent and that his answers could be used against him in criminal proceedings.

“During that interview Lehrmann falsely denied having sexual intercourse with Higgins,’’ the defence states.

“His dishonesty was deliberate and knowing and occurred in the course of the investigation of a crime, which amounted to perverting the course of justice.

Bruce Lehrmann. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary RamageBruce Lehrmann. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

In his defamation claim filed with the court, Mr Lehrmann accused Channel 10 and Lisa Wilkinson of recklessness.

The defence lodged by Ms Wilkinson rejects any allegation of recklessness as “baseless, unjustified, unsupported by any fact and (which) should be withdrawn.”

The document alleged the defamatory imputations that Mr Lehrmann raped Ms Higgins are substantially true, alleging:

On March 22, 2019 Mr Lehrmann went the Dock Bar in Canberra with Ms Higgins and others and later went to a nightclub.

Ms Higgins drank 11 standard alcoholic drinks in 4.5 hours with Mr Lehrmann and by about 1am was so intoxicated she was stumbling and fell over – and she told the people that she was with that she was going to catch a taxi home.

“Lehrmann offered to share a taxi with Higgins, having told her that they were headed in the same direction, but once both were in the taxi, Lehrmann told Higgins that he had to stop somewhere first,” the document states.

“Lehrmann directed the taxi to Parliament House, where he exited the taxi with Higgins at the Ministerial entrance at about 1:40am… Lehrmann and Higgins went through security and Higgins was observed by security personnel to be visibly intoxicated”.

The defence argument continues to allege Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins went up the lift and were admitted into Minister Reynolds suite by a security guard, who left them alone in the suite with the door closed.

“Higgins fell asleep on the couch in the suite,” the document alleges.

“Higgins woke some time later at about 2:30am and Lehrmann was on top of her having sexual intercourse with her… Higgins did not consent to the sexual intercourse with Lehrmann”.

Summing up a major defence, the document states:

“Lehrmann’s conduct described in the preceding particulars amounted to rape of Higgins in Parliament House in 2019”.

Brittany Higgins accused Lehrmann of sexual assault, a charge that was dropped. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary RamageBrittany Higgins accused Lehrmann of sexual assault, a charge that was dropped. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

It also noted Lehrmann was not named by Wilkinson as the person the subject of Higgins’ allegation, or any subsequent time before he was charged in August 2021.

“To Wilkinson’s knowledge, there was no legal impediment preventing the naming of Lehrmann in the matters, and her decision to not name him indicates the contrary of an intent to injure him,” the defence reads.

Mr Lehrmann denies any sexual intercourse took place between him and Ms Higgins.

He launched defamation proceedings in the Federal Court on February 7 against Network 10 and Ms Wilkinson, as well as News Corp and Ms Maiden, relating to coverage of Ms Higgins’ allegation of sexual assault against him.

He was subsequently charged in relation to the matter in August 2021 and pleaded not guilty to charges that were later dropped.

The first trial collapsed following juror misconduct and the DPP ultimately did not proceed, with a second citing Ms Higgins mental health.

In Mr Lehrmann’s defamation claim, he alleged the respondents made these four defamatory imputations concerning Mr Lehrmann:

He raped Brittany Higgins in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office in 2019; he continued to rape her after she woke up mid-rape and was crying and telling him to stop at least half a dozen times; whilst raping her, he crushed his leg against her leg so forcefully as to cause a large bruise; after he finished raping her, he left her on a couch in a state of undress with her dress up around her waist.

The statement of claim also alleges Ms Wilkinson was “fighting” with Ms Maiden over exclusivity for the story before publication.

Ms Wilkinson’s defence notes that this was based on Ms Higgins’ evidence during the trial.

She notes the evidence relied on by Mr Lehrmann to support this was shortly thereafter withdrawn by Ms Higgins in the witness box, in the presence of Mr Lehrmann.

“Wilkinson had no contact with Samantha Maiden about Higgins, her allegations, exclusivity or otherwise prior to the broadcast of the first matter or at any other relevant time thereafter,‘’ the defence states.

“At no time did Wilkinson believe that Higgins’ allegations about Lehrmann were false.”

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According to the statement of claim filed against both Ten and news.com.au, Mr Lehrmann‘s legal team allege that Wilkinson and Channel 10 were “recklessly indifferent to the truth or falsity” when they alleged a man raped Ms Higgins in Parliament House on March 23, 2019.

It stated that Ms Wilkinson “was seeking to exploit the false allegations of sexual assault as made by Ms Higgins for her own personal and professional gain”.

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