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Linda Reynolds responds to Brittany Higgins’ apology ahead of defamation fight

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Katina Curtis
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Liberal senator Linda Reynolds says the future of a defamation action she is pursuing against Brittany Higgins is now up to her former staffer accepting a judge’s finding there was no political cover-up of her rape allegation.
Liberal senator Linda Reynolds says the future of a defamation action she is pursuing against Brittany Higgins is now up to her former staffer accepting a judge’s finding there was no political cover-up of her rape allegation. Credit: RICHARD WAINWRIGHT/AAP

Liberal senator Linda Reynolds says the future of a defamation action she is pursuing against Brittany Higgins is now up to her former staffer accepting a judge’s finding there was no political cover-up of her rape allegation.

Ms Higgins issued a statement over the weekend responding to last week’s finding by Federal Court judge Michael Lee that on the balance of probabilities, she had been raped by then-colleague Bruce Lehrmann in Senator Reynolds’ office in March 2019.

She acknowledged that Senator Reynolds and veteran Liberal staffer Fiona Brown, who was the office’s chief of staff at the time, had been hurt throughout the years of court cases and public debate over the handling of the matter.

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“For that I am also sorry,” Ms Higgins wrote.

“My perceptions and feelings about what happened in the days and weeks after my rape are different from theirs. I deeply regret we have not yet found common ground.

“I hope we can resolve our differences with a better understanding of each others’ experience.”

Senator Reynolds said she appreciated the apology to her and Ms Brown.

“I sincerely hope that Justice Lee’s findings in relation to Ms Higgins’ allegation of rape will give her peace,” she said in a statement on Sunday evening.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton last week called on Ms Higgins to apologise to Senator Reynolds after Justice Lee dismissed the narrative of a political cover-up and on Sunday he said her comments were “very gracious”.

Senator Reynolds is suing Ms Higgins and her partner, David Sharaz, for defamation in a case that is currently before the courts in WA.

Brittany Higgins arrives at the David Malcolm Justice Centre in Perth, Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Brittany Higgins and her partner David Sharaz are meeting with Liberal senator Linda Reynolds for mediation talks as part of an ongoing defamation matter. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) NO ARCHIVING
Ms Higgins issued a statement over the weekend responding to last week’s finding by Federal Court judge Michael Lee. Credit: RICHARD WAINWRIGHT/AAPIMAGE

The Liberal politician said that action was never about the rape allegation, but “what Justice Lee exposed as false allegations raised two years after the rape” of “a dreadful and damaging political cover-up”.

“At enormous emotional and financial cost, I have fought for three years to expose the truth in relation to my conduct,” Senator Reynolds said.

“Looking forward, I welcome Ms Higgins’ olive branch and her commitment to engage with me to reach a resolution. I hope Mr Sharaz will now make a similar approach.”

She said that although Ms Higgins’ statement referred to a difference in perceptions, “it is a fact that Ms Higgins received our support and that there was no cover-up”.

“The common ground we now find must be based on the truth. As a matter of law, neither of us, nor Mr Sharaz, are bound by Justice Lee’s decision,” Senator Reynolds said.

“If Ms Higgins does not accept Justice Lee’s findings on the claims of cover-up and mistreatment then, regrettably, it will have to be proved again in our trial set for July this year. “

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins and her former boss Senator Linda Reynolds are in mediation talks in the DMJC in Perth. PIctured - Senator Reynolds leaves the DMJC
Ms Higgins acknowledged that Senator Reynolds and veteran Liberal staffer Fiona Brown, who was the office’s chief of staff at the time, had been hurt throughout the years of court cases and public debate over the handling of the matter. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

A criminal trial of the rape allegation was aborted due to juror misconducted, and a second trial abandoned because of the prosecutor’s fears for Ms Higgins’ health.

Justice Lee’s ruling came as the result of Mr Lehrmann taking defamation action against Network Ten, which was dismissed.

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