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‘Absolutely not’: Under oath, Lehrmann rejects allegations that he raped Brittany Higgins

Bruce Lehrmann has rejected an allegation he raped Brittany Higgins in a Parliament House office while giving evidence under oath for the first time.

Nov 23, 2023, updated Nov 23, 2023
Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann, accused of raping colleague Brittany Higgins at Parliament House in 2019, is suing media outlets for defamation (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann, accused of raping colleague Brittany Higgins at Parliament House in 2019, is suing media outlets for defamation (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Ms Higgins claims Lehrmann sexually assaulted her in the office of their then-boss, former defence industry minister Linda Reynolds, in the early hours of Friday March 22, 2019.

“Did you sexually assault Brittany Higgins in that office on that evening?” his barrister Steven Whybrow SC asked in the Federal Court on Thursday.

“Absolutely not,” Lehrmann replied.

However, he admitted lying to gain access to Parliament House after hours, saying although he only needed to return to get his keys he told security he was there to drop off documents.

The law student is giving evidence in his defamation hearing against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a February 2021 item on The Project that featured an interview with Ms Higgins.

Lehrmann told Justice Michael Lee that the earlier on the night of the alleged rape, he, Ms Higgins and two other colleagues went out for drinks on an “innocuous” social occasion.

Upon entering Reynolds’ ministerial suite, Lehrmann separated from Ms Higgins and went to work on annotating some Question Time folders before leaving to catch an Uber home, the court heard.

He said he had no contact with Ms Higgins and didn’t inquire about her whereabouts after that.

The following Tuesday, Lehrmann was called to the office of Senator Reynolds’ then chief-of-staff Fiona Brown to discuss a “security breach” on Friday.

He was told to pack up his things and not to come back to work.

In his defamation case, Lehrmann claims that while The Project report did not name him, it had “completely destroyed” him, shattering his reputation and leaving him suicidal.

“Losing friends, finances, certain sections of my family haven’t bothered to contact me,” he said.

“It’s fractured large parts of my life.”

Lehrmann said he was “shocked like everybody else” after he read an earlier News.com.au article on February 15 about the Higgins allegation.

However, he said he did not know he was the person accused until his employer at British American Tobacco called him into the office later that day.

Lehrmann has settled two other defamation proceedings he brought against News.com.au and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation over separate reports about Ms Higgins’ allegations.

The criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court over Ms Higgins’ rape allegations was derailed by juror misconduct and prosecutors did not seek a second trial because of concerns over her mental health.

A landmark report into the ACT legal system and the Higgins case was released in August, making damning findings against now ex-director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold over his conduct during the case.

Mr Lehrmann has separately been accused of raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021.

That criminal case is still in the committal stage and he is yet to enter a plea, but his lawyers have indicated that he denies the charges.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

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