Lisa Wilkinson’s statement after Bruce Lehrmann loses defamation case

The Nightly
3 Min Read
Justice Michael Lee found Bruce Lehrmann to have raped Brittany Higgins in 2019.

Lisa Wilkinson says she hopes Justice Michael Lee’s finding that Bruce Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019 would “give strength” to women around the country.

Ms Wilkinson and Network Ten won the defamation case Mr Lehrmann brought against them for a report on The Project in 2021 when a tearful Ms Higgins detailed the alleged assault.

Although he was not named in the broadcast and subsequent reporting, Mr Lehrmann claimed that he was identifiable as the accused rapist, and sued ABC, news.com.au, Ten and Ms Wilkinson, who conducted the interview on The Project.

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He later settled his claims with News Corp Australia and ABC for a combined $445,000 in payouts to cover his legal costs but pursued The Project through a defamation trial.

In a bombshell finding against Mr Lehrmann, Justice Lee found the former staffer was “hell-bent on having sex” with Ms Higgins and “didn’t care if she knew what was going on”.

“Mr Lehrmann raped Ms Higgins,” Justice Lee said.

Justice Lee said Mr Lehrmann made a grave error suing Ms Wilkinson and Ten after he escaped conviction in a criminal trial.

“Having escaped the lion’s den, Mr Lehrmann made the mistake of coming back for his hat,” he said.

“He has now been found, by civil standard, to be guilty of a great wrong.”

Ms Wilkinson, standing outside court after Justice Lee delivered his findings, thanked her supporters.

“Today, the Federal Court has found that I published a true story about a rape in a federal minister’s office at Parliament House in March of 2019,” she said.

“I sincerely hope that this judgment gives strength to women around the country.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 15: Sue Chrysanthou SC hugs Lisa Wilkinson as they emerge from court on April 15, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. Justice Michael Lee has ruled in favour of Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson in Bruce Lehrmann's defamation case. The case arose from allegations aired on 'The Project' news program, in which Brittany Higgins claimed she was raped by a colleague in Parliament House. Lehrmann, who denied any sexual contact with Ms Higgins, alleged defamation by the broadcast, despite not being explicitly named. The court found that Lehrmann had raped Brittany Higgins on the balance of probabilities.  (Photo by Don Arnold/Getty Images)
Sue Chrysanthou SC hugs Lisa Wilkinson as they emerge from court after Justice Michael Lee ruled in favour of Network Ten and Ms Wilkinson in Bruce Lehrmann's defamation case. Credit: Don Arnold/Getty Images

“I am also so grateful to have had the benefit of my independent legal team, led by Sue Chrysanthou SC, whose expertise and wise counsel have been a source of ongoing strength to me for the last 14 months.

“Throughout every step of this process, I have been surrounded by the love of my wonderful family, as well as incredibly supportive friends and colleagues. I can never thank them enough.

“I also want to say how grateful I am to all the generous members of the public who have approached me, almost every single day, to express —- often through tears — their unwavering support.”

Network 10 in a statement said the judgment was a “triumph for truth”.

“At its core this case was first and foremost about truth and Justice Lee has found that Network 10 prevailed in proving that Brittany Higgins’ allegations of rape were true,” the network said.

“Justice Lee’s judgment is vindication for the courageous Brittany Higgins who gave a voice to women across the nation.

“Network 10 is considering Justice Lee’s 324-page judgment. It is clear however that Australia’s defamation laws remain highly restrictive.

“When put to the test, it was always our obligation to inform the public of these important social and political matters notwithstanding the challenges presented by these laws and today’s judgment vindicates the telling of Brittany’s story.”

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