Welcome to our rolling coverage of Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation suit against Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson.
Follow the latest news and updates from the hearing today.
Higgins could be recalled over compo deal
Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steve Whybrow has told the Federal Court he wants to recall Brittany Higgins to the witness box to cross examine her over her $2.3 million compensation payout.
The cash figure was revealed for the first time this week as Ms Higgins was grilled on the confidential payout.
Ms Higgins’ lawyer Leon Zwier was also required to provide a copy to the Federal Court.
“Do you propose to make an application to further re-examine Ms Higgins in relation to the document or not,” Justice Michael Lee said on Wednesday.
“Yes,” Mr Whybrow SC replied.
The document was not previously available to legal counsel before Ms Higgins was in the witness box.
Justice Lee admonished Mr Lehrmann’s legal counsel noting that on more than one occasion he urged the applicant to seek third party discovery and suggesting if they had they would have had access to it earlier.
“So you would have had a list of documents well in advance, you would have been able to inspect the state well in advance of the hearing, but a forensic decision was made by the applicant,” he said.
“Notwithstanding I said I was prepared to make such an order (you did) not seek it.”
Justice Lee said he could consider whether or not Ms Higgins should be recalled.
“But in any event, there’s no reason why the document can’t be tendered,” he said.
Justice Lee said he would not allow public or media access to the document until about 4pm today.
Parties may make submissions for non-publication or suppression before that time, but otherwise the document will be released.
Woman who found Higgins naked takes stand
A former parliamentary security guard Nikola Anderson has given evidence that she found Ms Higgins completely naked in the minister’s office on the night of the alleged rape and her dress “just looked like it had been taken off and thrown on the floor.”
Ms Anderson gave evidence in the Federal Court today about the moment she walked Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins to the ministerial suite and unlocked the door.
She later performed a welfare check on Ms Higgins after Mr Lehrmann exited the building.
“Can you recall if the dress was folded?” Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Mr Whybrow asked.
“It just looked like it had been taken off and thrown on the floor,’’ Ms Anderson said.
“And you did not have any concerns, in relation to when you were doing a welfare check, at that stage? You say the woman opened her eyes and looked at you. Did she speak to you?”
“No. She rolled over into the foetal position and faced the desk,’’ Ms Anderson said.
Ms Anderson said she did not observe the woman to be in any trouble, or distress.
What’s happening today
Two security guards who worked at Parliament House on the night Ms Higgins alleged she was raped will give evidence in the Federal Court on Thursday.
Ms Anderson and Mark Fairweather, have been called to give evidence by Network Ten.
Ms Anderson is the security guard who discovered Ms Higgins naked in the office of Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds in the early hours of March 23, 2019.
She had previously given evidence in the criminal trial in October, 2022.
She was also interviewed by the ABC’s Four Corners Program in March, 2021 after the story first broke.
Justice Lee, discussed the proposed witness list on Wednesday and expressed surprise that Ms Higgins’ fiancé David Sharaz will not be called to give evidence.
“You’re not calling him?” Justice Lee asked.
Channel Ten’s barrister Matt Collins KC indicated to the court that Mr Sharaz was not around in 2019, when the alleged incident occurred.
“He was not on the scene in 2019,” Mr Collins said.
Mr Sharaz was present when Ten producer Angus Llewellyn recorded a five hour pre-interview in 2021 between Ms Higgins, Ms Wilkinson and Mr Llewelyn.
On Thursday, Justice Lee also heard submissions on whether or not Ms Reynolds’ chief of staff, Fiona Brown will be called to give evidence.
“Ms Brown has returned from overseas. She’s still jet lagged, but she has returned and I have met with her,” her lawyer told the court on Thursday.
“She has told me she wishes to assist your honour. She has received medical advice that she not give evidence.
“We have, having regard to her vulnerable state, we have sought an updating report from her psychiatrist, which I understand is in train.”
Justice Lee said if she was able to give evidence “then obviously it would seem to have some significance”,
Ms Brown’s lawyer also asked for the court’s live stream to be delayed if she was to give evidence.
“Conscious of the public interest and also conscious of the risk of harm and also how the giving of evidence, with something up to 20 to 25,000 people watching would be oppressive in itself,” she said.
Justice Lee said he was “open” to the idea of delaying the live stream to limit the “vexation” to the witness.
Former Lib staffer text: ‘Brittany hooked up with Bruce’
A former Liberal staffer has revealed she texted a friend the night after seeing Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann kiss in a nightclub that “Brittany and Bruce hooked up” but never knew about the rape allegation until years later.
Lauren Gain, a former ministerial staffer who worked at the Defence Department at the time, attended The Dock and a nightclub called 88 mph with Ms Higgins and Mr Lehrmann.
The morning after the alleged rape, on Saturday 23 March 2019, she told the Federal Court that she exchanged Telegram messages with a colleague Nikita Irvine where she asserted they “hooked up”.
“How was 88?,” Ms Irvine asked.
Ms Gain replied it was “really fun”.
“Brittany hooked up with Bruce,” Ms Gain said.
Mr Lehrmann denies Ms Higgins’ allegations, and says the pair did not have sex.
He also denies kissing Ms Higgins at the nightclub or any form of sexual activity.
In an affidavit published by the Federal Court, Ms Gain said she was and remained good friends with Ms Irvine.
She said that on or about 24 March 2019, she met with Ms Irvine.
“I do not remember exactly what we said, but I recall we discussed in general terms what had happened on the Friday night prior and that Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins had kissed,” she said.
Ms Gain said she did not hear of rape allegation until 2021, when Ms Higgins texted her out of the blue.