Brittany Higgins snapped at a Channel Seven reporter outside court after her final day of giving evidence during Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation trial came to an end.
After just over four days in the witness box, Ms Higgins on Tuesday afternoon completed her evidence after appearing in Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson’s legal battle with Mr Lehrmann.
Mr Lehrmann is suing for defamation over Ms Wilkinson’s February 2021 interview with Ms Higgins on The Project in which she alleged she was raped by her former colleague in Parliament House.
Mr Lehrmann has denied the allegation, telling the Federal Court he did not have any sexual contact with Ms Higgins when they entered Parliament House on the morning of March 23, 2019.
During her evidence, Ms Higgins previously told the court she was raped by Mr Lehrmann on the couch of Senator Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office.
Leaving the Federal Court on Tuesday afternoon, Ms Higgins was followed by camera crews and journalists after she told the court she received $2.3 million in compensation from the Commonwealth as she denied attempting to “blow up” Bruce Lehrmann’s retrial.
As she was walking away, Ms Higgins was asked by a Channel 7 reporter whether she would give evidence in another criminal trial.
“And should there be (another trial)?” the reporter asked.
She responded: “Aren’t you paying his rent?”
Ms Higgins walked away from the group without answering any other questions from the media pack.
The court heard Ms Higgins was paid a total $2.3m in compensation after settling her personal injury claim with the Commonwealth.
In December last year, Ms Higgins settled her claim following mediation with the Commonwealth.
“Yes I received money from the Commonwealth, they made an agreement that a failure of duty of care was made,” Ms Higgins told the court.
“And they did pay me.”
She said the gross settlement was for $2.3m and after paying legal fees and taxes, she received $1.9m.
“I received 1.9 million … I think around 2.3 (million) was the amount and then there were taxes and the lawyer took some,” Ms Higgins said.
“But I was never focused on that ... it was only on what I received that I cared about.”
Ms Higgins also denied that she was attempting to “blow up” Mr Lehrmann’s then-scheduled retrial when she made a speech on the steps of the ACT Supreme Court.
Ms Higgins made comments to the media after Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial was last year aborted due to juror misconduct.
Mr Lehrmann stood trial after pleading not guilty to one count of sexual assault.
The charges were subsequently dropped after prosecutors elected not to pursue a retrial, and no findings have been made against him.
Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steve Whybrow questioned Ms Higgins whether her comments had the capacity to undermine the fairness of a future trial.
At that point, the matter was set to be the subject of a retrial, before it was ultimately abandoned.
Asked if she received legal advice before giving the speech, Ms Higgins said “no”.
Mr Whybrow put it to her that she should have known she should not comment when the matter, at the time, was set down for a retrial in February.
“I was really not in a headspace where I was absorbing information,” Ms Higgins said.
Mr Whybrow asked: “I suggest that when you gave that speech, it was designed to blow up a retrial, do you know what I mean by that?”
“Wow, no, not at all,” Ms Higgins said.
“You certainly, do you agree, made it clear that you didn’t believe Mr Lehrmann should have a presumption of innocence,” Mr Whybrow asked.
“I don’t know, I don’t think he had a right to my body, but here we are,” Ms Higgins said.
Mr Whybrow asked whether she had “a lot to lose” by Mr Lehrmann being found not guilty.
Ms Higgins replied: “I’d go through it again tomorrow.”
Ms Higgins was asked about comments she expressed to Ms Wilkinson and The Project producer Angus Llewellyn that she didn’t believe Mr Lehrmann would be found guilty on the standard of proof in the criminal courts - beyond reasonable doubt.
Mr Whybrow asked whether, at the time, she thought she had a better chance of proving the allegations in a civil trial, in which the standard of proof is lower - the balance of probabilities.
The court heard that in a social media post made on December 7 last year, Ms Higgins said: “I feel the need to make it clear if required, I’m willing to defend the truth as a witness in any potential civil cases brought about by Mr Lehrmann.”
The court heard that she responded to a tweet, Ms Higgins saying that there were upcoming proceedings “in a slightly more favourable court”.
She told the court she was willing to go ahead with a criminal retrial, but the decision to abandon the prosecution was made by “doctors and the DPP”.
“I had to accept their decision,” Ms Higgins said.
“I wanted him to know that I would not let my rapist become a millionaire for being a rapist. So I said I would do it and I’m here.”
Brittany Higgins claimed that she was treated badly by Senator Linda Reynolds and her chief of staff, Fiona Brown, following the alleged rape.
“You were not excluded and treated as if you were toxic by Linda Reynolds and Fiona Brown,” Mr Whybrow said.
“I was both excluded and treated as toxic,” Ms Higgins said.
Following the 2019 election she went to work in the office of Michaelia Cash.
Meanwhile, Ms Higgins has told the court her partner, David Sharaz, held a grudge towards the Coalition in the lead up to her going public with her allegations in February 2019.
Ms Higgins told the court that Mr Sharaz was “holding a grudge by that point”.
Mr Whybrow asked whether that was because he was being protective.
“Yes,” Ms Higgins said.
The court has heard that Mr Lehrmann was dismissed from his role in Linda Reynolds’ office on Tuesday March 26 when he was pulled into a meeting by the senator’s chief of staff, Fiona Brown.
Ms Higgins had a meeting with Ms Brown that same afternoon where she says she disclosed the rape for the first time.
The court heard on that same afternoon she texted her ex-boyfriend Ben Dillaway saying: “So I think I may not continue to be employed with Linda.”
When Mr Dillaway asked if something had happened, Ms Higgins replied: “Yeah, it’s pretty bad. I genuinely don’t know how it’s going to play out/how I want it to play out.”
After being urged to be honest, Ms Higgins further said: “So on Friday night, how I ended up in the ministerial office didn’t play out how I made out.
“I don’t remember getting there at all. I vaguely remember Bruce being there and then I woke up in the morning half-dressed by myself in the minister’s office on Saturday morning.”
Ms Higgins added in another text message: “I was barely lucid, I don’t really feel like it was consensual at all. I just think if he thought it was okay, why would he just leave me there like that?”
Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steve Whybrow on Tuesday suggested to Ms Higgins that she was suggesting to Mr Dillaway: “you had no idea what happened”.
“No, I was disclosing to Ben and I was being very sensitive and delicate about it but I wasn’t ready to say the word rape yet,” Ms Higgins said.
“I hadn’t said the word rape yet so I was just doing these partial disclosures. That was my thought process. I was giving Bruce every benefit of every doubt that I had.”
Ms Higgins fiercely denied further suggestions that she was implying to Mr Dillaway that it was possible she passed out on the minister’s couch and nothing had happened.
However she said at that time she wasn’t at the point of being ready to use the word “rape” and was “inching” towards it.
“He had raped me and I wasn’t ready to say it or own it,” Ms Higgins said.
“I was still trying to mentally play these gymnastics where he wasn’t this awful person because it still seems so inconceivable that I was a victim of this.
“I just wasn’t ready yet, I was starting this conversation, inching so no I don’t agree with your assertion.”
“10 OUT OF 10”
Ms Higgins at times became tearful as she was on Tuesday played CCTV of her walking through security and attempting to put her shoes on before she was led to the minister’s office on the morning of the alleged sexual assault.
She told the court that on the morning of March 23, 2019 she was “10 out of 10 drunk”.
She said she could not remember being led to Senator Linda Reynolds’ office by security, however she said that once there she could recall sitting on a ledge looking out a window.
“I suggest when you described to his honour that you were 10 out of 10 drunk, that was a lie,” Mr Whybrow said.
“No, I was very drunk,” Ms Higgins said.
She has alleged that when she entered the office, she sat on a ledge overlooking the parliamentary courtyard and woke on a couch being raped by Mr Lehrmann, the court has heard.
Mr Lehrmann, during his evidence, told the court that he went one way when he entered the office and Ms Higgins went another, and that he did not have any sexual contact with her that night.
Mr Whybrow on Tuesday suggested Ms Higgins had laid down on the couch and took off her dress.
“I don’t know (whether she had laid down on the couch), after being on the ledge - the next thing I know is Bruce raping me … I don’t know how I got to the couch,” Ms Higgins said.
Ms Higgins told the court she had never shared allegations that Mr Lehrmann had attempted to kiss her at a pub in the weeks leading up to the alleged sexual assault with Ms Wilkinson and journalist Samantha Maiden because it wasn’t in her “mind” at the time.
Ms Higgins has previously told the court that while she was waiting for an Uber, Mr Lehrmann “came up to me, he came into my space and he tried to kiss me on the lips.”
Mr Lehrmann, during his evidence, denied ever trying to kiss his then-colleague.
Mr Whybrow on Tuesday questioned why Ms Higgins never told the journalists about the alleged kiss.
“It wasn’t outside the scope of political staffers for that sort of thing to happen quasi-regularly, so it wasn’t even in my mind,” Ms Higgins said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Ms Higgins was cross-examined by Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steve Whybrow about the night of the alleged rape.
The court has heard that Ms Higgins, and other colleagues, met up with Mr Lehrmann at The Dock bar on the evening of March 22, 2019.
CCTV played to the court on Tuesday showed Ms Higgins’ bumble date arriving and sitting with the group.
The court heard that she had told officers during her police interview that the man, named as Nick in court on Tuesday, was “bullied” by her colleagues over his position within the Australian Public Service on that night.
The court heard that the man left after several hours.
Mr Whybrow on Tuesday suggested to Ms Higgins that as soon as Mr Lehrmann and another parliamentary colleague, Austin Wenke, arrived she abandoned Nick in favour of spending time with them at another table.
“I don’t recall, I was pretty drunk by then, I just remember them being mean to him,” Ms Higgins said.
She also denied that she had “ghosted” Nick.
Video played to the court showed Ms Higgins sitting with Mr Lehrmann, Mr Wenke and colleague Lauren Gain at another table.
Just after 9.30pm, “Nick” picked up his jacket and left without speaking with Ms Higgins. She had been seated at the other table for half an hour.
“He was made fun of, yes, but in hindsight, I was rude to my date and he left because I was rude to my date,” Ms Higgins said.
The court heard on Tuesday that when she first met with police in 2021, Ms Higgins declined to provide her phone to police, saying she wanted to get legal advice.
She subsequently provided her phone to police.
“Can I suggest that you deleted any message you had with a significant number of people who may have been in a position to contradict your narrative of events,” Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steve Whybrow asked.
“No, that’s not true,” Ms Higgins replied.
Ms Higgins told the court she had deleted one photo – a picture from a party in which someone placed a Make America Great Again hat on her head – noting she was “ashamed” of it.
The court heard Mr Whybrow questioned whether Ms Higgins had deleted messages from a number of Liberal staffers, as well as a Parliament House security guard, Adam, who she had planned to go on a date with.
Ms Higgins told the court that she lost messages after upgrading her phone and because she had several iCloud accounts.
Mr Whybrow also questioned whether Ms Higgins had deleted messages with a Bumble date named Nick.
However Ms Higgins told the court she did not know his name until she was questioned about him in the witness box on Tuesday.
Mr Whybrow suggested to Ms Higgins that it was an “absolute lie” that she did not know his name, having referenced his name in a draft of her book, as well in her police interview.
”Miss Higgins that’s an absolute lie … you refer to him by name in your draft book,” Mr Whybrow said.
”I didn’t know his name was Nick,” Ms Higgins said.
Ms Higgins also denied that she had deleted one message from her ex-boyfriend, Ben Dillaway.
The court heard that one message exchanged between the pair was found in his phone however it was not in her phone after she handed it over to police.
Ms Higgins denied deleting it, saying: “if anything it corroborates (her version of events).”
She added she didn’t know when the message might have been deleted.
Ms Higgins was on Friday also questioned about a photo of a bruise which she says she took in the Parliament House toilets.
The court heard that during Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court last year she maintained she sustained the bruise during the alleged rape.
However she said she now accepted it was possible that she suffered the bruise while falling up the stairs at a bar, 88MPH, on the same evening.
The court also heard that she told The Project that the bruise was caused by Mr Lehrmann.
Mr Whybrow suggested to Ms Higgins that the bruise was a “recent invention”.
“That’s incorrect,” Ms Higgins said.
The court heard that when Ms Higgins sent the photo to The Project producer Angus Llewellyn, she sent him a screenshot rather than the original.
Ms Higgins denied that she sent him a screenshot so it would not contain any metadata, which would establish when it was taken.
“There was no evidence that (the photo) was in existence before the start of 2021 other than what you said,” Mr Whybrow said.
“I did exist, I took it around the time of the assault,” Ms Higgins said on Friday.
“I reject (the assertion.)”
The trial before Justice Michael Lee continues.