Lisa Wilkinson has dropped Channel 10’s lawyers and hired her own high-profile defamation barrister as she defends claims of defamation brought by Bruce Lehrmann.
The former political staffer launched defamation proceedings in the Federal Court earlier this month against two media companies, after a trial over allegations he sexually assaulted former colleague Brittany Higgins was aborted.
Mr Lehrmann had pleaded not guilty to the charge, which has since been dropped by the DPP, and has continued to deny any allegation he sexually assaulted Ms Higgins at Parliament House in March 2019.
The trial, which lasted multiple weeks in the ACT Supreme Court, had to be aborted in October following misconduct by a jury member, who brought outside material into the jury room.
Lisa Wilkinson has dumped Network Ten’s legal team and is funding her own defence.
Mr Lehrmann launched legal action against Lisa Wilkinson and Network 10, and Samantha Maiden and News Corp Australia’s News Life Media over coverage of Ms Higgins’ allegations in February 2021.
Ms Wilkinson was initially set to be represented by Ten’s lawyers at Thomson Geer, but documents filed to the Federal Court on Tuesday reveal she has dumped them in favour of her own legal team.
“Lisa Wilkinson has appointed Anthony James Jefferies, Gillis Delaney Lawyers,” court documents state.
NCA NewsWire understands Sue Chrysanthou SC has been hired as the barrister for Ms Wilkinson’s defence.
A legal expert told NCA NewsWire the retainer of senior counsel of the calibre of Ms Chrysanthou by Wilkinson “definitely sends a message to Mr Lehrmann that he has a fight on his hands”.
They noted Ms Chrysanthou successfully represented Senator Sarah Hanson Young in her now infamous sl*t-shaming defamation action against former Senator David Leyonhjelm.
The expert explained the retainer of separate lawyers by defendants is often necessary because “it should never be assumed that their interests are the same”.
The sexual assault charge against Bruce Lehrmann was dropped in December. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
“This is particularly so when one defendant has a much stronger defence or argument on limitation than the other,” the expert said.
“Another reason may be that one defendant may run a defence through a commercial lens and another may not.
“One can understand why Wilkinson, who was such a prominent voice at the time, may wish to have her own representation to protect solely her interests and reputation – which appear to be no longer aligned with those of Network Ten”.
The move came less than a day after the network’s legal team lodged papers declaring they would be representing her.
Mr Lehrmann is being represented by Mark O’Brien legal.
Mr O’Brien, whose law firm represents Ben Roberts-Smith VC in his defamation battle with Fairfax/Nine newspapers, confirmed in December that he had joined Mr Lehrmann’s legal team.
Allegations Mr Lehrmann sexually assaulted Ms Higgins were first made public in February 2021. He was not named at the time.