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Brittany Higgins hospitalised in Royal Perth Hospital following mediation with Linda Reynolds

Tim Clarke and Natalie Wolfe
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Brittany Higgins was hospitalised in Perth on Tuesday night
Brittany Higgins was hospitalised in Perth on Tuesday night Credit: BIANCA DE MARCHI/AAPIMAGE

Brittany Higgins was admitted to hospital in Perth on Tuesday after a breakdown in her mediation talks with former boss Linda Reynolds.

The West Australian understands Ms Higgins was treated at Royal Perth Hospital about 11pm on Tuesday for health reasons after she and her fiance, David Sharaz, spent much of the day trying to make peace with Senator Reynolds to avoid a long and public defamation trial.

She was not admitted to a hospital ward but spent several hours in the emergency department.

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A planned court conference that was supposed to find a way forward between Ms Higgins, Mr Sharaz and Senator Reynolds was cancelled at the eleventh hour on Wednesday.

The trio spent more than nine hours in mediation on Tuesday to try and resolve their differences but failed to come to an agreement by 7pm that night with Ms Higgins saying nothing as she left Perth’s David Malcolm Justice Centre.

Senator Reynolds issued a statement late on Wednesday saying she was “very concerned” for Ms Higgins.

“I had been confidentially made aware of this very unfortunate development and am very concerned for Ms Higgins’ well-being,” she said.

“Legal negotiations are unfortunately sometimes difficult and testing for all participants and yesterday was a tiring and difficult day for all of us.

“I attempted to minimise stress by avoiding any direct contact that may have been confronting and relying on a very experienced judge to interact with Ms Higgins.

“I proposed today through my solicitor a two-week pause in the case to enable Miss Higgins and all parties to recover and get past the stress of the court attendance and significant media attention.”

Court officials and lawyers gave no hint the conference’s cancellation on Wednesday may have been due to any medical emergency. It was believed that mediation was to continue while a new date would be found for the next public court hearing.

When that will be remains unclear last night. As did Ms Higgins’ condition and whereabouts.

Ahead of a potential defamation trial in July, the warring parties were called to Perth together by Justice Marcus Solomon in a bid to find a settlement in person.

On her way into court on Tuesday, Ms Higgins spoke of how returning to Perth was personally difficult for her.

It was here in 2019 that she admitted reaching some of her lowest points, attempting to recover from the rape she alleged she suffered in Canberra’s Parliament House while also working daily on Senator Reynolds’ re-election campaign.

“It’s a difficult place to come back to,” she said. “It’s beautiful, but just personally, it’s hard being back in Perth.

“I think everyone is acting in good faith, trying to get an outcome.”

The outcome was not reached this week, with both sides only saying they would continue the process as they left the court building.

On Wednesday, the sides were due to come together again to thrash out more details.

But by mid-morning, that conference was called off.

Because Justice Marcus Solomon personally involved himself in the mediation, he is now not eligible to conduct any trial on the case.

A new judge — believed to be Justice Paul Tottle — needs to read plenty of material expected to be mentioned in the trial to ready himself for a potential place on the bench.

The mediation had originally been set down for two days to be heard in private — with only those involved permitted onto the eighth floor of the David Malcolm Justice Centre.

In her Supreme Court writ, Senator Reynolds says a story published on Ms Higgins’ Instagram account defamed her and breached a settlement deed they had reached.

In one, she chastised her former boss for continuing “to harass me through the media and in the Parliament”.

Senator Reynolds claims she suffered loss and damage as a result of the posts.

A similar claim has been made against Mr Sharaz over a number of social media posts published online in the wake of Ms Higgins’ allegations of being raped by a former colleague in Senator Reynolds’ Canberra office.

Justice Solomon has overseen the action since it emerged in 2023 and has consistently called on both sides to mediate — ordering the sessions face-to-face.

Besides suing the couple, Senator Reynolds had also threatened to freeze their assets when they moved to France.

Overarching all those moving parts is the impending decision of Justice Michael Lee in the Federal Court, where Ms Higgins’ alleged attacker, Bruce Lehrmann, is suing Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson for airing the interview with Ms Higgins.

That decision could come by the end of March.

The West understands conclusions contained within that are likely to influence both sides as to the potential to settle Senator Reynolds’ claim against Ms Higgins.

Justice Tottle is best known for his judgments on the treatment of teenage prisoners in WA’s detention centres.

He ruled that the State repeatedly broke the law with its lockdown treatment of three youngsters in the crumbling Banksia Hill centre.

He granted injunctions sought by the Aboriginal Legal Service, preventing similar treatment from happening to the youngsters again.

Justice Tottle concluded that the youngsters had been unlawfully locked in their cells at Banksia Hill and Unit 18 for prolonged periods, amounting to solitary confinement, over a total of 167 days.

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