Senator says Lehrmann verdict ‘sets the record straight’ over cover-up claims

The Bruce Lehrmann defamation judgement has “set the record straight” on claims of a political cover-up over the alleged rape of a Liberal staffer in 2019, a senator says.

Apr 18, 2024, updated Apr 18, 2024
Former Cabinet member Linda Reynolds is suing alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins. (file image)

Former Cabinet member Linda Reynolds is suing alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins. (file image)

Federal Court Justice Michael Lee handed down his findings on Monday in Lehrmann’s failed defamation case against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson.

The judge found the ex-political staffer had, on the balance of probabilities, raped his then-colleague Brittany Higgins in the office of then-defence minister Linda Reynolds in Parliament House after a night out in Canberra.

He also rejected allegations Senator Reynolds and others had attempted to silence Ms Higgins, saying the claims were “objectively short on facts but long on speculation”.

In a statement, Senator Reynolds said Justice Lee’s judgement had corrected the record over the cover-up allegation.

“For three years I have endured intense public scrutiny, vilification, vile trolling and have been demonised as the villain in a story of a political cover-up I have always known to be untrue,” the West Australian senator said.

“The decision of his Honour Justice Lee has finally set the record straight with respect to the conduct of (then chief of staff Fiona) Brown and myself and the demonstrably false narrative that has dominated headlines and ruined lives and careers.

“To say I am pleased with the findings in relation to Ms Brown, myself and the cover-up that never was, would be an understatement.”

The senator, who plans to retire from politics at the next federal election, said the allegation had ruined her and Ms Brown’s careers, destroyed their reputations and impacted their health.

Senator Reynolds declined to comment further due to her ongoing defamation actions against Ms Higgins and her partner David Sharaz.

“I note as a matter of law that the findings by Justice Lee are not binding on Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz in respect of their defences to my actions in the Supreme Court of Western Australia,” she said.

“I therefore remain committed to fully vindicating my reputation.”

Senator Reynolds, is suing her former political staffer Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz over a series of social media posts that she says have damaged her reputation.

On Tuesday, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Senator Reynolds was a person of “great honour and integrity”.

“I would have thought off the back of the judgement yesterday, people would be looking to settle the matter against Linda Reynolds, and issuing a full apology to her for the way in which her reputation has been tarnished,” he told reporters in Perth.

The defamation matter has been provisionally listed for a six-week trial from July 24.

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