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Bruce Lehrmann has lost his defamation case against Network Ten, with the Federal Court finding he raped colleague Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019.

Federal Court Justice Michael Lee said Lehrmann had told “deliberate lies” to the court and that instances of his “false out of court statements” were “legion”.

“Mr Lehrmann behaved disgracefully. He defended the criminal charge on a false basis, lied to police, and then allowed that lie to go uncorrected before the jury,” Justice Lee said.

“He also allowed Higgins, an assault victim, to be cross-examined on a knowingly false premise”.

Lehrmann was previously criminally charged over the incident but the ACT Supreme Court trial collapsed in 2022 due to juror misconduct.

He did not stand trial a second time over concerns for Higgins’ mental health.

“Having escaped the Lion’s den, Mr Lehrmann made the mistake of coming back to collect his hat,” Justice Lee said today.

“Having escaped the Lion’s den, Mr Lehrmann made the mistake of coming back to collect his hat” – Justice Lee

Lehrmann sued Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a 2021 report featuring Higgins regarding the incident.

The report did not name Lehrmann, but he argued he could be identified as the alleged perpetrator regardless.

Justice Lee said there was a “substantive difference” between the standards of proof for criminal cases and for civil cases, such as defamation proceedings.

“However…I am satisfied that the evidence provides an appropriate basis upon which to reach a conclusion,” he said.

“Mr Lehrmann is not entitled to the vindication of his reputation” — Justice Lee

Ten and Wilkinson successfully used the defence of “substantial truth”, regarding whether Lehrmann had raped Higgins.

Justice Lee said if Lehrmann had been successful in his action, he would only have been awarded $20,000.

Both parties have been given April 24 to make submissions regarding costs, with costs incurred by Ten and Wilkinson likely in the millions.

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Lehrmann enters the Federal Court this morning. Source: ABC News/Brendan Eposito


Although Ten and Wilkinson had not defamed Lehrmann, Justice Lee was highly critical of the quality of the report, on Ten’s The Project, which made unsubstantiated claims of a cover-up of the rape.

The credibility of both Higgins and Lehrmann was brought into question, however regarding Lehrmann, Justice Lee said “in important respects he told deliberate lies”.

“I would not accept anything he said except where it amounted to an admission accorded with the inherent probabilities, or was corroborated by a contemporaneous document or a witness whose evidence I accept,” Justice Lee said.

He described Lehmann’s claims to having ties to Australia’s international spy agency ASIS (the Australian Signals Intelligence Agency) as “Walter Mitty-like imaginings”.

“Mr Lehrmann gave false evidence about a litany of…matters such as being reprimanded by Senator Reynolds; the classified documents security breach as to security entry into Parliament House; the circumstances in which he came to be accompanied by Ms Higgins when securing entry; about whiskey; and about his representations made to Ms Brown (a parliamentary staffer who investigated the matter)”.

“Mr Lehrman has no compunction about departing from the truth if he thought it was expedient” — Justice Lee

“All these falsehoods, together with his Walter Mitty-like imaginings in skiting in his gain about ASIS, demonstrate that Mr Lehrmann has no compunction about departing from the truth if he thought it was expedient”.

Higgins had given the court evidence that, regarding the 2019 incident at Parliament House, she had not been fully aware of her surroundings but then suddenly became aware of Mr Lehrmann on top of her.

Justice Lee said that evidence “struck me forcefully as being credible and having the ring of truth”.

Network Ten lawyer Justin Quill said Justice Lee had found the network “deserved to be vindicated.”

“Bruce Lehrmann is a rapist,” he said.

“In the end Channel Ten turned up here and defended at great cost this case and Lisa’s journalism, and defended The Project’s journalism”.

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Anthony Klan

Editor, The Klaxon

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