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No luck with mediation, so Senator’s claim against Brittany Higgins heads back to court

A pair of high-profile defamation cases that pit Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds against former political staffer Brittany Higgins and her partner will to return to court after mediation.

Apr 03, 2024, updated Apr 03, 2024
Brittany Higgins and her partner David Sharaz (left) are seen leaving the David Malcolm Justice Centre in Perth, Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz held a day of mediation talks with Liberal senator Linda Reynolds as part of an ongoing defamation matter. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) NO ARCHIVING

Brittany Higgins and her partner David Sharaz (left) are seen leaving the David Malcolm Justice Centre in Perth, Tuesday, March 5, 2024. Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz held a day of mediation talks with Liberal senator Linda Reynolds as part of an ongoing defamation matter. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) NO ARCHIVING

The former defence minister is suing Ms Higgins and David Sharaz over a series of social media posts that she says have damaged her reputation.

The parties attended a closed-door mediation hearing in the Western Australian Supreme Court last month but it’s understood to have failed.

They are scheduled to appear in the same court on Wednesday for a directions hearing, where their lawyers could lay out a plan for more peace talks or a trial, which was previously provisionally listed for six weeks from July 24.

Senator Reynolds is suing Mr Sharaz over tweets he made and a Facebook comment in 2022.

Among the defamatory imputations claimed against Mr Sharaz’s tweets were that Senator Reynolds pressured Ms Higgins not to proceed with a genuine complaint to police, “is a hypocrite in her advocacy for women’s interests and empowerment”, interfered in Bruce Lehrmann’s trial, and bullied Ms Higgins.

Senator Reynolds claims she was also defamed by Mr Sharaz’s reply to a comment on her Facebook page that asked how she was still in politics having “destroyed” Ms Higgins.

The commenter added, “You’re a monster who deserves to be in jail”.

Mr Sharaz responded: “Thanks for reminding her. I hope she hears this every day until she dies”, the senator’s statement of claim says.

Ms Higgins is accused of posting defamatory material on two occasions on her Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Ms Higgins alleged she was raped in 2019 by Lehrmann inside Senator Reynolds’ ministerial office, where he worked as a staffer.

Lehrmann denies the allegation and his trial in the ACT Supreme Court was derailed by juror misconduct.

Prosecutors decided not to pursue further action, citing concerns about the impact it may have on Ms Higgins’ mental health.

He has since been charged with raping another woman in Queensland and his lawyers have indicated he will plead not guilty.

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