Linda Reynolds and Brittany Higgins look set to head to trial over social media defamation claims

Tim Clarke
The Nightly
2 Min Read
David Sharaz, Brittany Higgins and Linda Reynolds
David Sharaz, Brittany Higgins and Linda Reynolds Credit: The Nightly

Outgoing WA senator Linda Reynolds intends to allege that Brittany Higgins and her fiance David Sharaz concocted a “concerted plan” to attack her on social media.

Hearings resumed on Wednesday in Senator Reynolds’ defamation actions against her former media adviser and her partner.

But any discussion of further mediation failed to materialise — with planning turning to another potentially sensational trial, featuring more intrigue surrounding Ms Higgins and her time working with the WA senator.

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A marathon in-person mediation session in the same Perth court building last month failed to reach a settlement.

It had been said immediately after that more mediation remained a possibility.

But before a new judge — Justice Paul Tottle — the only prospect appears to be a lengthy and very public trial, to be held in July.

Senator Reynolds’ barrister Martin Bennett revealed in court their intention to call up 20 witnesses to support their claim that social media posts posted by Ms Higgins seriously dented the politician’s reputation.

They would include family, friends, parliamentary colleagues and even doctors — who would all attest to how those posts affected Senator Reynolds.

And he also flagged evidence about Ms Higgins’ time in Perth immediately after she was allegedly raped by Bruce Lehrmann at Parliament House in Canberra in 2019.

She has said in other hearings that she felt isolated, ostracised — and eventually suicidal — while on the road with Senator Reynolds’ election campaign that year.

But Mr Bennett said they intended to call others with “very different recollections of that”.

He also said that it was inevitable that both Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz would have to both give evidence.

Senator Reynolds is suing her former junior media adviser, and her partner, for defamation over social media posts the former defence minister claims severely dented her reputation.

In her Supreme Court writ, Senator Reynolds says a story published on Ms Higgins’s 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 in the wake of Ms Higgins’ allegations of being raped in Senator Reynolds’ Canberra office.

But ahead of the potential trial in 2024, a judge has ordered the warring parties to sit down face-to-face to try and resolve the dispute before the potentially explosive and emotional trial.

Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz flew in from France for the mediation.

Wednesday’s hearing was adjourned, with potential strategic conferences ahead of the trial set for May.

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