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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Wednesday May 22, 2024
Wednesday May 22, 2024

Court rules Bruce Luhrmann raped Brittany Higgins in parliament house

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A judge finds substantial truth in Brittany Higgins’ account of being raped by Bruce Lehrmann inside parliament, amidst a high-profile defamation case.

In a landmark ruling that has reignited discussions about the treatment of women in Australian politics, former political staffer Bruce Lehrmann was found to have raped his colleague, Brittany Higgins, inside Parliament House. This decision came from a defamation case where Lehrmann had sued Network 10 for airing an interview in which Higgins detailed her allegations.

Justice Michael Lee of the Federal Court delivered the verdict, concluding that Lehrmann was “hellbent” on sexual gratification, disregarding whether Higgins consented. The judgment emphatically stated that Lehrmann engaged in sexual intercourse without Higgins’ consent, describing his actions as “recklessly indifferent.”

This case stems from a 2021 media report which had already stirred significant public outcry and debates over how female staffers are treated within the political sphere in Australia. In the controversial interview, Higgins recounted waking up on a couch in a minister’s office, realizing she was being raped by Lehrmann after an evening out in Canberra in 2019.

Lehrmann, who attended the court hearing, has consistently denied that any sexual activity took place. He claimed that after sharing an Uber ride back to the office from their outing, the two parted ways. However, his version was not accepted by the court, with Justice Lee branding some of Lehrmann’s statements as “deliberate lies.”

The standard of proof in defamation cases is a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the claims need only be more likely to be true than not. This is a lower threshold than that required in criminal trials, where evidence must be beyond a reasonable doubt. Lehrmann had previously faced a criminal trial in 2022, but it was aborted due to juror misconduct, and a planned retrial was ultimately not pursued to spare Higgins further mental anguish.

In his closing remarks, Justice Lee noted that Lehrmann, having once “escaped the lion’s den” by the dismissal of criminal charges, erred gravely by seeking vindication through defamation proceedings, only to have the allegations substantiated by the court.

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