‘Not a lawyer’: Lisa ’relied on’ 10 to fact-check

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Lisa Wilkinson is “not a lawyer” and understood her interviews with Brittany Higgins were thoroughly checked by Channel 10’s legal team, her defence has claimed.

In the 23-page legal document defending Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation claim against her and her employer, Ms Wilkinson’s team claimed she was not familiar with defamation law and “would have complied with any and all” advice or request from lawyers to alter her reporting.

The defence – which pleads truth and qualified privilege – alleged Ms Wilkinson “at all relevant times” understood Network 10 employed an expert legal team with experience in “defamation and contempt”.

Mr Lehrmann launched legal action against Lisa Wilkinson and Network 10, as well as News Corp Australia’s News Life Media and news.com.au’s Samantha Maiden, over coverage of Higgins’ allegations in February 2021.


The defence document filed by Ms Wilkinson’s barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC said it will prove Mr Lehrmann’s conduct “amounted to rape”.

It claimed Ms Wilkinson acted as a responsible journalist and outlined the steps she took in preparation for the story.

Lisa Wilkinson attends the 62nd TV Week Logie Awards on June 19, 2022. Picture: Jono Searle/Getty ImagesLisa Wilkinson attends the 62nd TV Week Logie Awards on June 19, 2022. Picture: Jono Searle/Getty Images

According to the defence, Ms Wilkinson was “informed and understood” the matters were reviewed by more than one lawyer, a number of times, prior to broadcast.

“Wilkinson did not receive any request or advice by Network 10 lawyers prior to the broadcast of the matters in relation to the allegations against Lehrmann in the final version broadcast,” the defence read.


Ms Wilkinson’s defence referenced several senior producers and managers whom she “understood” and “was told” had fact-checked each of Ms Higgins’ allegations.

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

It read that “to Wilkinson’s knowledge,” extensive fact-checking was done “for some weeks” by Network 10, including by executive producer Craig Campbell, co-executive producer Chris Bendall, senior producer Angus Llewellyn, senior news and current affairs executive Peter Meakin and Laura Binnie – the Project’s head of long-form feature stories.

“Information obtained by Llewellyn … who Wilkinson understood in his role as Senior Producer in relation to the matters, was spending many hours working on the investigation, (of) which information was conveyed to Wilkinson in person or by telephone on an almost daily basis during the four-week investigation period leading up to broadcast of the matters,” the defence read.

“To Wilkinson’s mind, Meakin’s input and extensive news and current affairs experience was particularly crucial to the preparation and publication of the matters. Meakin had been running newsrooms at all the major free to air networks for more than five decades and was, in Wilkinson’s view, the most respected news executive in the country.”

Ms Wilkinson’s defence claims she understood senior news and current affairs executive Peter Meakin did extensive fact-checking.Ms Wilkinson’s defence claims she understood senior news and current affairs executive Peter Meakin did extensive fact-checking.

A significant amount of work was done by Ms Wilkinson herself to test Ms Higgins’ allegations, the document claimed.

It stated the pair first spoke on the phone for about 90 minutes on or about January 20, 2021, when Ms Higgins “outlined her situation”.

Ms Wilkinson was then emailed a timeline of events, names of those who knew of Higgins’ allegations in 2019 and contemporaneous documents, emails and text confirming she complained of the rape at that time, it read.

“Wilkinson spoke to Higgins again via telephone on or about 23 January, 2021 for approximately 30 minutes in order to further question her to test the veracity of her allegations, and to obtain details that could be checked by Wilkinson and Network 10,” the defence claimed.

“Higgins came to Sydney to meet privately with Wilkinson and Network 10 Producer Llewellyn on or about 27 January, 2021 so that further discussions could take place to enable Wilkinson and Network 10 to consider the reliability of Higgins’ allegations. The meeting lasted approximately six hours and was recorded”.

The defence concluded that after fact-checking and a review of the matters by “an experienced team of news and current affairs professionals,” Wilkinson understood there was a consensus Ms Higgins was a credible witness.

The night in question

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.”

“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.”

The defence alleges: “Higgins fell asleep on the couch in (Senator Reynold’s) suite … 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”.

It stated Mr Lehrmann “falsely denied having sexual intercourse with Higgins” to the Australian Federal Police on April 19, 2021.

“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,” it read.

Ms Wilkinson’s Logies acceptance speech caused a stir. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty ImagesMs Wilkinson’s Logies acceptance speech caused a stir. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Logies fallout

Mr Lehrmann was charged with sexual intercourse without consent in August 2021 and pleaded not guilty to the charge that was later dropped.

He has always denied having sex with Ms Higgins and any wrongdoing during the trial.

The bruising fallout from Ms Wilkinsons’ Logies speech resulted in a delay to the criminal trial.

The TV presenter came under fire after thanking Ms Higgins in her acceptance speech for the Outstanding News Coverage Logie award.

It prompted the Chief Justice of the ACT Supreme Court to delay the trial “through gritted teeth” from June to October, after defence lawyers argued it could prejudice the jury.

Ms Higgins arriving to give evidence at the ACT Supreme Court trial, which was later thrown out. Picture: Martin Ollman/Getty ImagesMs Higgins arriving to give evidence at the ACT Supreme Court trial, which was later thrown out. Picture: Martin Ollman/Getty Images

After the trial, a letter written by Network 10 executive vice-president Beverley McGarvey claimed that neither the network’s senior legal counsel or Ms Wilkinson realised they had been cautioned about the speech in a meeting with the Director of Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold.

“Neither Ms Wilkinson nor the Network Ten Senior Legal Counsel present at the conference with the DPP on June 15 2022 understood that they had been cautioned that Ms Wilkinson giving an acceptance speech at the Logie Awards could result in an application being made to the court to vacate the trial date,” the letter said.

“Had they understood that a specific warning had been given, Ms Wilkinson would not have given that speech.”

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

Ms Wilkinson, who is one of the most highly paid presenters in Australian television, remains under contract to Network 10 but has not appeared on screen since she quit The Project in November.

When she quit the job last year, she cited the toll of the “targeted toxicity” from sections of the media.

Mr Lehrmann has denied Ms Higgins’ allegations since August 2021.Mr Lehrmann has denied Ms Higgins’ allegations since August 2021.

Next steps

A hurdle Mr Lehrmann must jump over is whether his lawyers succeed in asking the court to extend a one-year limitation period on submitting a defamation claim.

His legal team lodged his submissions regarding the limitation extension to the Federal court on Wednesday, but these were not publicly released as they are considered restricted documents.

The defamation case’s first public hearing, which is expected to examine the application for an extension, is listed for March 16.

Mr Lehrmann, who is being represented by Mark O’Brien legal, has maintained his innocence since he was charged in August 2021.

More Coverage

‘Amounted to rape’: Lisa’s defence releasedLehrmann’s lawyer targets Lisa Wilkinson

This came six months after allegations were first made public accusing an unnamed staffer of sexually assaulting Ms Higgins in Parliament House in March 2019.

News Life Media has until March 7 to file its defence.

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