Advertisement

Higgins grilled on post-trial speech

BRUCE LEHRMANN
Bruce Lehrmann is suing Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson for defamation. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Max Mason-Hubers

Brittany Higgins has denied to a court suggestions a speech she made immediately following the mistrial of Bruce Lehrmann was delivered with consideration it could undermine any future legal proceeding.

Ms Higgins is appearing as a witness for journalist Lisa Wilkinson and Network Ten after Bruce Lehrmann sued for defamation over her February 2021 The Project interview in which she alleged she was raped in Parliament House.

Mr Lehrmann has consistently denied the allegations and in his evidence said he had no sexual contact with Ms Higgins in the office of Senator Linda Reynolds in the early hours of March 23, 2019.

His lawyers have sought to undermine the credibility of Ms Higgins, asserted she fabricated the allegations and accused her of giving inconsistent accounts.

LEHRMANN
Brittany Higgins has returned to the witness stand on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Monique Harmer.

RE-TRIAL

Ms Higgins was on Friday questioned about comments she made to waiting media after Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial was aborted due to juror misconduct.

Mr Lehrmann stood trial in the ACT Supreme Court last year 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 on Friday whether her comments at the time 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 later abandoned.

“And you’re aware that was still a criminal matter before the courts where people shouldn’t comment,” Mr Whybrow said

“I don’t know exactly, I was pretty distraught at the time,” Ms Higgins told the court on Friday.

“I’m not sure if it went into that level of granular detail or if I had an awareness that it was a (retrial). I’m not sure.”

HIGGINS LEHRMANN MISS TRIAL
Brittany Higgins spoke outside the ACT Supreme Court after Mr Lehrmann’s trial was aborted due to juror misconduct. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

“PERPETRATOR”

Ms Higgins was on Friday grilled about a timeline which she compiled in early 2021 and later distributed to journalists.

The document details key events, people and names Mr Lehrmann as the “perpetrator”.

Mr Whybrow on Friday asked Ms Higgins why she told Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial last year that the document was sent to The Australian journalist Rosie Lewis without her knowledge, by her partner David Sharaz, while she was “passed out” on valium.

“I may have sent it to Rosie, but I did take a lot of valium that day and David did send it to more journalists,” Ms Higgins told the court.

Ms Higgins told the court that Mr Sharaz sent the timeline to “half the press gallery” on background after they were overwhelmed with questions on the day the story broke.

The court heard the document named Mr Lehrmann, however Ms Higgins said his name was meant to be redacted.

“So it was just an accidental oversight that this document naming Mr Lehrmann as the perpetrator of your sexual assault was distributed to a lot of the Canberra press gallery and wider,” Mr Whybrow asked.

“Yes it was a mistake,” Ms Higgins said.

Assignment Freelance Picture A timeline document which Brittany Higgins distributed to journalists\n named Bruce Lehrmann. Picture: Supplied.
A timeline document which Brittany Higgins distributed to journalists named Bruce Lehrmann. Picture: Supplied.
LEHRMANN
Bruce Lehrmann has denied having any sexual contact with Brittany Higgins. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Monique Harmer.

THE ELECTION

Ms Higgins denied she went public with her allegation in an attempt to influence the election.

“The reason you didn’t comply with police urging you not to go to the media is because you wanted to try and affect the outcome of the upcoming election,” Mr Whybrow asked

“No, I was a Liberal through and through since I was born,” Ms Higgins said.

“I had no intention of impacting the election but I wanted to change the culture in Parliament House.”

She added: “When I came forward, I was angry at the way my rape had been handled but I didn’t think anything I said would be consequential enough to impact the election. I didn’t have a big enough of an ego to think I could change the course of the election - and I still don’t.”

“NOT ABOUT THE LIBERAL PARTY”

The court was played an audio excerpt from a five-hour pre-interview between Ms Higgins, Mr Sharaz, Ms Wilkinson and The Project producer Angus Llewellyn.

The court heard that during the chat, Mr Sharaz discussed his preference for the story to go to air in the days before a sitting week and prior to Senate Estimates.

Mr Sharaz also asked if Ms Wilkinson knew of any Labor MPs who could ask questions in parliament.

“The reason we’ve chosen the timeline we have was because there’s a sitting week when we want the story to come out … I’ve got a friend in Labor, Katy Gallagher on the Labor side, who will probe and continue it going,” Mr Sharaz said during the chat, which was played to the court on Friday.

Mr Whybrow asked Ms Higgins if it was “seriously” her contention that part of her motivation was not to cause political damage.

“It was not about the Liberal Party, it was about women in politics,” Ms Higgins said.

HIGGINS LEHRMANN MISS TRIAL
Brittany Higgins speaking after Bruce Lehrmann’s criminal trial was aborted. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage.
QUESTION TIME
Brittany Higgins made a secret recording of her former boss Senator Michaelia Cash. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman.

THE RECORDING

Ms Higgins was on Friday questioned about a recording she made of a conversation of Senator Michaelia Cash in February 2021.

She worked for Ms Higgins after leaving Senator Reynolds’ office.

The court heard Ms Higgins made the recording without the senator’s knowledge.

“You recorded that secretly without telling her didn’t you,” Mr Whybrow asked

“I did for my legal protection,” Ms Higgins said.

The court heard on Friday that she sent it to a friend, Emma Webster, with Ms Higgins saying it was for “safe keeping”.

She later sent the tape to Mr Llewellyn.

The photo of a bruise taken by Brittany Higgins. Picture: Seven News Spotlight
The photo of a bruise taken by Brittany Higgins. Picture: Seven News Spotlight

THE BRUISE

Ms Higgins was on Friday 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 that 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 88MPH.

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 Mr 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.

“I reject (the assertion)”

WILKINSON COURT
Lisa Wilkinson entering the Federal Court on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Monique Harmer.

THE TIMELINE

Ms Higgins was also quizzed on Friday about inconsistencies in her evidence to the court and the timeline which she wrote in early 2021, and later distributed to journalists.

The court heard earlier this week that following the alleged assault she had a meeting with Ms Reynolds and Ms Reynolds’ chief of staff, Fiona Brown.

Ms Higgins told the court earlier this week she was “traumatised and “distraught” at that meeting because it was held in the room where she alleges she was raped.

She told the court that in the meeting Senator Reynolds apologised to her, told her “these are things women go through”, and asked to be kept informed if she went to police.

However, in a timeline, that Ms Higgins wrote, she said of the meeting: “The Minister stated that the reports of what had happened made her feel ‘physically ill’ and that she was “shocked and appalled by what had taken place”.

Ms Higgins on Thursday described the document as being “incorrect”.

“I’ve been questioned about it each way, upside-down now, and now I’ve got a much clearer picture about what happened,” she said.

Ms Higgins added that she did not believe Ms Reynolds and Ms Brown were the “villains” of the story.

However she added that Ms Reynolds “did not meet her duty of care” and she believed Ms Brown was “following instructions.”

“I was really isolated after my rape,” Ms Higgins said.

“They weren’t around. But I don’t think they’re necessarily bad people.”

“RECLAIM”

Ms Higgins has on Friday answered questions about the white cocktail dress that she wore on the night she alleges she was sexually assaulted.

CCTV previously tendered to the court showed her wearing the dress at a bar and when she entered Parliament House.

The court heard that she was pictured wearing the dress at a birthday event for Linda Reynolds in Perth during the Federal election later in 2019.

“It was my favourite dress, I used to wear it all the time and I was trying to reclaim it … I never wore it after this event. I thought maybe I could disassociate it from the rape but I never could,” Ms Higgins told the court.

The court heard that she took photos of herself in the bathroom during the birthday event, which she sent to her boyfriend at the time, Ben Dillaway.

“You took that photo because you hadn’t been sexually assaulted,” Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steve Whybrow SC suggested to her during cross examination on Friday.

“I understand that is what you’re putting to me, but that’s incorrect,” Ms Higgins said.

BRUCE LEHRMANN
Brittany Higgins has returned to the witness stand on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Max Mason-Hubers.

THE DRESS

Ms Higgins on Thursday told the court that she on several occasions made incorrect claims about the state of her dress when she woke up following the alleged sexual assault.

The court heard that she had previously said she had woken with her dress scrunched up, hanging loosely around her waist.

The court heard that she had made the claim in a draft of a memoir she had written and submitted to a publisher, in a pre-interview with Ms Wilkinson and The Project, and when speaking with police.

However that is contradicted by the evidence of a security guard, given during Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial, who said Ms Higgins was found naked in the minister’s office.

“Are you telling his honour that those recollections were not reliable,” Mr Whybrow asked on Thursday.

“That’s true, I thought it was on my waist, I was incorrect, I didn’t know where the dress was,” Ms Higgins said.

“I thought it was on my waist because I don’t remember putting it on the next day. So I deduced it was still on.”

She added: “I accept I got it wrong for a long period of time and when I heard the other testimony I had to accept that was the truth.”

There were more tense moments in the court on Thursday as Mr Whybrow asserted she had lied when she made the sexual assault allegations.

“I suggest to you (the dress) was a significant matter, it immediately follows your alleged sexual assault,” Mr Whybrow said.

“As I was being raped it wasn’t my primary concern where my dress was,” Ms Higgins replied on Thursday, becoming visibly emotional and tearful.

Ms Higgins previously told the court that she accompanied Mr Lehrmann back to Parliament House after a night of drinking and woke to find him on top of her on a couch in Senator Reynolds’ office.

Mr Whybrow on Thursday asserted to Ms Higgins that she “fabricated” the sexual assault allegation.

“I understand it’s your assertion, it’s insulting, but I understand it,” Ms Higgins snapped back.

BRUCE LEHRMANN
Bruce Lehrmann has denied having any sexual contact with Ms Higgins. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Swift.

THE UNDERWEAR

The court heard on Thursday that during her chat with Ms Wilkinson she also alleged that Mr Lehrmann had removed her underwear.

However she has in later versions of events said that she was not wearing underwear that night.

Ms Higgins told the court on Thursday that she was “too embarrassed” to tell Ms Wilkinson she wasn’t wearing underwear that night.

“Well, it was a lie wasn’t it?” Mr Whybrow asked.

“Yes,” Ms Higgins said.

Ms Higgins said that she had been truthful about the underwear in several other interviews and during her evidence during Mr Lehrmann’s trial in the ACT Supreme Court.

BRUCE LEHRMANN
Lisa Wilkinson entering court with her barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Swift.

THE BOOK DEAL

Ms Higgins on Thursday bristled at questions she lied about allegations she had been sexually assaulted and was maintaining her story for the purpose of a six-figure book deal.

The court heard on Thursday that she had been paid $108,000 for an advance for a book deal and would receive $216,000 from Penguin Random House when she completed the project.

The court heard she had signed the $325,000 deal before Mr Lehrmann had been charged by police.

“The marketability of your future memoir is in some substantial part related to the truth of your allegations that Mr Lehrmann sexual assaulted you,” Mr Whybrow asked.

“Yes,” Ms Higgins said.

“So you have 216,000-odd reasons, in my submission, to not want to tell the truth, which was that it didn’t happen … You have a financial interest in the outcome of the proceedings,” Mr Whybrow said.

“I declare it now, if I ever actually finish the book, I will donate all 200-and-whatever to charity. I don’t care about the money. Take it on oath right away. I don’t care about it.”

Mr Lehrmann stood trial in the ACT Supreme Court last year after pleading not guilty to one count of sexual assault.

The trial was aborted due to juror misconduct.

The charges were subsequently dropped and no findings have been made against him.

The trial continues.