Cost begins to bite for rapist Bruce Lehrmann after loss in defamation trial of the century

Tim Clarke
The Nightly
Bruce Lehrmann emerges from court after losing his defamation case.
Bruce Lehrmann emerges from court after losing his defamation case. Credit: Don Arnold/Getty Images

The financial cost of losing his high-stakes defamation battle has begun to bite for rapist Bruce Lehrmann — with a judge ordering him to pay more than $4000 to the husband of high-profile presenter Lisa Wilkinson.

As well as being the partner of the person who presented the 2021 interview with Brittany Higgins that accused Mr Lehrmann of rape, author and columnist Peter FitzSimons was drawn into the saga personally by acting as a go-between in Ms Higgins’ lucrative book deal.

It was Mr FitzSimons whom messages showed was brokering a deal on behalf of the former parliamentary staffer, eventually signed for more than $300,000.

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Due to that involvement, Mr FitzSimons also became a peripheral figure in the drag-down defamation fight between his wife, her employer and Mr Lehrmann.

And on Friday it was revealed he incurred $4616 in costs in complying with a subpoena from Mr Lehrmann’s legal team.

Last month, Mr FitzSimons sought an order that Mr Lehrmann pay for his “reasonable loss or expenses” associated with his legal fees.

It was agreed by consent that Mr Lehrmann pay those costs, and the orders were confirmed by Justice Lee in writing.

They will not be the last ones he makes.

Next week, lawyers from all sides will return to Sydney’s Federal Court to bolster their arguments as to who should foot which bills in the multi-million dollar legal battle.

Submissions revealed this week from Network Ten say Mr Lehrmann should pay the lot — in part because “at the time of commencing the proceeding, Mr Lehrmann knew that he had raped Ms Higgins.”

“Mr Lehrmann brought this proceeding on a deliberately wicked and calculated basis. Mr Lehrmann brought this proceeding, gambling on the respondents not being able to discharge their burden of proof,” Ten said.

“He engaged in a prolonged and conscious effort to mislead the court and deliberately concocted evidence in that endeavour.

“(He) ran a case based on positive falsities, and put Network Ten to the cost of defending a baseless proceeding.

“The seriousness of such conduct cannot be overstated.”

Network Ten also pointed out they had made an offer to Mr Lehrmann to settle the claim a month before the trial was due to start.

But Mr Lehrmann told his lawyers to turn it down just two hours later.

“Mr Lehrmann brought this proceeding, gambling on the respondents not being able to discharge their burden of proof,” the submission said.

“Mr Lehrmann knew that he had raped Ms Higgins, and therefore had knowledge that the imputations upon which the entirety of his claim rested were substantially true.

“It must have been apparent to Mr Lehrmann, as at the date of the offer, that the chickens were coming home to roost.”

In a separate submission, lawyers for former presenter Lisa Wilkinson also said Mr Lehrmann should pay for their separate defence team.

In his response, Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers admitted that legal precedent — including that in the case of Ben Roberts-Smith — meant the court could find that he was liable for all the costs.

But they argued he should not be ordered to pay them all.

“It must be borne in mind that a cost order is not to be used to punish a party,” Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers wrote.

“Further, it has been held that ‘even a finding that a party has fabricated evidence is not necessarily sufficient to warrant the grant of an indemnity costs order’.”

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