The identity of a high-profile man charged with two counts of rape can be revealed as former federal parliamentary staffer Bruce Emery Lehrmann.
Police laid the charges against Mr Lehrmann, 28, earlier this year over an alleged incident in Toowoomba dating back to 2021.
He has not entered a plea.
Mr Lehrmann’s identity as the “high profile man” can finally be revealed after an interim non-publication order was dismissed, alongside a judicial review at the Supreme Court in Brisbane on Thursday.
Lawyers for Mr Lehrmann had sought the judicial review after a magistrate refused their application to continue the non-publication order earlier this month.
In his published reasons, Supreme Court Justice Peter Applegarth said the magistrate’s decision was not affected by any errors.
“The evidence before the magistrate included evidence that the potential naming of the applicant prior to the conclusion of the committal proceeding weighed heavily on him and had affected his mental health,” Justice Applegarth said in his judgment.
“This unfortunate effect on his mental health permitted, but did not compel, a finding that a non-publication order was necessary to protect the applicant’s safety.”
Justice Applegarth said Mr Lehrmann had not established the magistrate’s decision was unreasonable in the legal sense “or so unreasonable that no reasonable magistrate could have made that decision”.
He said the only evidence given by Mr Lehrmann’s solicitor regarding his client’s mental health was the following paragraph in an affidavit, which stated:
“Bruce Lehrmann has told me that these proceedings, the frequency of the publications, and the potential naming of him prior to the committal hearing have weighed heavily on him and it is affecting his mental health including feeling hopeless, and suicidal.”
Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers said the magistrate erred by failing to apply a “calculus of risk” test involving harm coming to their client.
But Justice Applegarth rejected this.
“In fact, the Magistrate recognised the considerations in question,” he said.
“She considered evidence about the nature, imminence and degree of likelihood of the identified harm and having assessed the evidence, was not satisfied that an order was ‘necessary’ to protect his safety.”
Justice Applegarth said in his decision the evidence included “the presentation of the applicant in media interviews” and made no mention of his “poor psychological state for reasons he did not wish to disclose to the public”.
“Instead, he presented to the public, for reasons that neither he, his solicitor nor his psychologist adequately explained to the Magistrate, as someone who was keen to litigate pending defamation cases and ‘light some fires’,” Justice Applegarth said.
“The magistrate’s decision did not lack an intelligible justification.
“The justification was that the demanding requirement of being satisfied that the order is ‘necessary’ was not established by sufficiently persuasive evidence to support that conclusion.”
Outside court, lawyer Zander Croft - who acted for the media outlets - said the decision was a “fantastic” result.
He said the decision was an important one for the principles of open justice.
“It’s important the public knows what’s going on in the courtroom, it keeps the court accountable and the judiciary accountable and issues like these are brought to light,” he said.
It follows the Queensland Government scrapping laws prohibiting the identification of people charged with rape or prescribed sexual offences before they are committed to stand trial.
Those laws expired on October 3, 2023.
But lawyers for the high profile man had successfully sought an order preventing media outlets from naming him until now.
In a decision published on September 29, Queensland Supreme Court Justice Peter Applegarth AM said the man intended to apply for a suppression order under the new laws “as soon as practicable”.
“The applicant seeks a temporary order from this Court to preserve the status quo until his application for an interim order in the Magistrates Court can be heard and determined,” Justice Applegarth said.
Justice Applegarth, in granting the temporary order, said the committal proceeding had “attracted publicity”, leading to “substantial risk” the high-profile man’s identity would be published as early as October 3.
On October 13, Mr Lehrmann’s legal team and lawyers acting for the media outlets faced Toowoomba Magistrates Court, where his legal team argued the order should stay in place.
Barrister Andrew Hoare, acting for Mr Lehrmann, said there was a “real existing risk of harm” to his client if his identity were to be published.
He said the man suffered from “severe” suicidal ideation that had manifested over years.
Mr Hoare said his client could be in grave danger of attempting self-harm, which he submitted necessitated the order continuing.
But Robert Anderson KC, representing the media outlets, said Mr Lehrmann had not given evidence before the court, instead relying on his solicitors and his psychologist.
He noted Mr Lehrmann was prepared to go public with certain statements but was “unprepared” to face the court and give evidence himself.
Mr Anderson said the defendant had “no automatic right to protection” under the recent amendments to the legislation, and that the female complainant wanted his name to be made public.
“The complainant’s voice is important to be heard,” he said.
“She wants the defendant to be named. It is not neutral, it is an active voice.”
Mr Anderson referred to several public statements given by Mr Lehrmann.
“There is an incredulity between the applicant’s public presentation and what is said by … (his) doctor,” he said.
“It was irreconcilable.
“The applicant has not said anything to Your Honour directly. He has chosen to stay silent.”
Mr Anderson submitted Mr Lehrmann was ready to speak his own truth but was still asking this court to prevent the public from knowing who he is and prevent open justice.
He also said the man was attempting to deny the complainant’s voice.
“He has voluntarily placed himself in a very public forum, in a way that will inevitably expose and require him to explain … all of his circumstances,” Mr Anderson said.
“His lawyers have told him to stay quiet, he has refused that advice.
“He wants to be heard – everywhere except here.”
Mr Lehrmann’s application to keep his name under wraps was unsuccessful, but a temporary stay was put in place until October 26 so his legal representatives could appeal the decision.
In an unrelated case, Mr Lehrmann stood trial last year charged with the sexual assault of his former parliamentary colleague Brittany Higgins in 2019.
He had pleaded not guilty to raping Ms Higgins at Parliament House while the pair were staffers in former defence minister Linda Reynolds’ office.
The trial was aborted due to juror misconduct.
The Director of Public Prosecutions declined to pursue a retrial over concerns of Ms Higgins’ mental health, dropping the charge against Mr Lehrmann.
Mr Lehrmann has continued to deny the allegations.
Mr Lehrmann’s case in Queensland remains before the courts.
His lawyer Rowan King told Toowoomba Magistrates Court at an earlier appearance he would attempt to keep his client’s name suppressed when the disclosure laws kicked in.
On the last occasion, the court was told “thousands” of pages worth of phone data had been reviewed by prosecutors as part of the case.
Another 800 pages of phone records still needed to be reviewed, crown prosecutor Nicole Friedewald said.
The recent change to Queensland law was one of the major recommendations from the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce to bring Queensland’s laws in line with other states and territories.
Alongside the Northern Territory, Queensland was the only state or territory with such a protection in place.
The specific change removes restrictions in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1978 that prohibit the identification of those charged with rape or offences such as attempt to commit rape, assault with intent to commit rape and sexual assault.
Those accused of these sexual offences are now treated the same as individuals charged with any other offence, with details about their identity able to be published.
Exceptions apply if it would identify or tend to lead to the identification of the complainant.
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au
National Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Counselling Service 24-hour helpline 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732