Brittany Higgins loses bid to defer defamation trial as fiance David Sharaz cries poor in Linda Reynolds fight

Rebecca Le May
The Nightly
4 Min Read
 Linda Reynolds, right, is sueing David Sharaz and Brittany Higgins.
Linda Reynolds, right, is sueing David Sharaz and Brittany Higgins. Credit: Damian NewsWire Shaw/News Corp Australia

The bitter defamation fight between Linda Reynolds and Brittany Higgins has taken a remarkable turn, with the former parliamentary staffer losing a bid to defer their trial and her fiance waving the white flag.

Senator Reynolds is suing Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz for defamation over a series of social media posts the pair published in 2022 and 2023, amid the fallout from Ms Higgins’ bombshell claims of rape in Parliament House.

At a hearing on Tuesday before Justice Paul Tottle, Jason MacLaurin representing Mr Sharaz, said there was “every chance” his client would “get off this ride” and “not buy a ticket on the Titanic”.

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David Sharaz’s lawyer Jason MacLaurin dropped a bombshell that his client may “get off this ride” - upped only when his client confirmed on X mid-hearing that he was bowing out of the fight.
David Sharaz’s lawyer Jason MacLaurin dropped a bombshell that his client may “get off this ride” - upped only when his client confirmed on X mid-hearing that he was bowing out of the fight. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

In the middle of proceedings, Mr Sharaz then posted on X: “Despite our best efforts Linda Reynolds has not accepted attempts to resolve this matter through mediation and Brittany may now be exposed to another trial. It will be her third.

“I cannot afford to defend myself over a six-week trial.

“As a result, I have today informed the court that I will not fight Reynolds’ legal action any more.

“I now appeal for Senator Reynolds to settle her litigation against Brittany, a rape victim, by agreeing to disagree, and putting all of this behind them. Its time to move on.

“It’s time to let Brittany heal.”

Mr MacLaurin said Mr Sharaz was a man of limited financial means, prompting an incredulous response from Martin Bennett, representing Senator Reynolds.

“He lives in a chateau in France,” Mr Bennett said.

“The first thing he can do is step up to the plate and apologise.”

Senator Linda Reynolds’ lawyer Martin Bennett urged Mr Sharaz to apologise, labelling his latest social media post a deliberate, attention-seeking stunt.
Senator Linda Reynolds’ lawyer Martin Bennett urged Mr Sharaz to apologise, labelling his latest social media post a deliberate, attention-seeking stunt. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

The initial purpose of the hearing was Ms Higgins applying to the court to delay certain deadlines for preparing for trial, set down for six weeks from July 24.

Nicholas Owens, representing Ms Higgins via videolink, said the main reason was his client was suffering fresh trauma after the recent bombshell finding by Federal Court judge Michael Lee and that was making it difficult to get instructions from her.

Justice Lee found he was convinced, to a civil standard, that the former junior media advisor had been telling the truth when she claimed she was raped by former parliamentary colleague Bruce Lehrmann, in her interview with The Project in 2021.

Ironically, the case was a defamation claim by Mr Lehrmann, which Justice Lee’s judgment threw out.

But he made another crucial finding, that the other claim in that Network Ten story — of a political cover-up involving Senator Reynolds and others — was not true.

Mr MacLaurin declined to speak to reporters after the hearing.
Mr MacLaurin declined to speak to reporters after the hearing. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

Mr Bennett said the outgoing MP’s health has been adversely affected by the case amid “abuse on social media about the position she has taken”.

She had a “strong desire to proceed to trial and as she sees it, obtain vindication of her reputation without delay”.

Justice Tottle concluded the trial could go ahead as planned, given Mr Sharaz’s flagged position meant half of the allocated time could be freed up to vary the timetable.

“My strong impression is prolonging this process ... is detrimental to both sides,” Justice Tottle said.

Taking steps to conclude the proceedings at the earliest date was the most effective way to address the health concerns of the two key parties, he said.

Mr Owens said his client still hoped for a mediated outcome despite “a level of pessimism” on Senator Reynolds’ part.

Mr Bennett told the court that a recent Instagram post by Ms Higgins that was viewed as an olive branch - in which she said she was “sorry” that Ms Reynolds and her chief of staff Fiona Brown were hurt in the fallout from the Lehrmann allegation - was “a pseudo apology” and “no balm”.

And outside court, Mr Bennett said his client viewed Mr Sharaz’s mid-hearing social media post “to be insulting and aggravating”.

Mr Bennett baulked at Mr Sharaz’s claim he was of limited financial means, saying he had a chateau in France.
Mr Bennett baulked at Mr Sharaz’s claim he was of limited financial means, saying he had a chateau in France. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

“All of this was deliberately planned,” Mr Bennett told reporters.

“An attention-seeking stunt to manipulate the media.”

He agreed the post was perversely ironic - given Mr Sharaz is being sued over social media commentary - “but it seemed to be staged”.

“It’s another attack on Senator Reynolds,” the lawyer said.

“It’s what he does, but we’ll go ahead, we’ll prove our damages on Mr Sharaz.

“If he’s impecunious as he asserts from France, he’ll go bankrupt.

“He’ll have to ask his trustee in bankruptcy if you can live overseas or travel overseas - you can’t do it as a right if you’re bankrupt in Australia.”

Mr MacLaurin declined to speak with media outside court.

A strategic case conference will be held on May 10, by which time Mr Sharaz is expected to clarify his position.

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