Brittany Higgins: Rape case delayed after Lisa Wilkinson’s Logies speech

Brittany Higgins: Rape case delayed after Lisa Wilkinson’s Logies speech

The trial for the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins has been delayed in the wake of an “extraordinary” Logies acceptance speech from Lisa Wilkinson.

Bruce Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Ms Higgins inside Parliament House in 2019.

He was due to stand trial in the ACT Supreme Court on Monday, June 27.

Lawyers representing Mr Lehrmann launched a stay application to delay the trial following the publicity surrounding Ms Wilkinson’s speech.

“Your honour, this speech did not need to be made,” defense barrister Steve Whybrow said on Tuesday.

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Camera IconBrittany Higgins. Credit: News Corp Australia

In delivering her judgment, ACT Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said it was “through gritted teeth” she ruled the trial date would need to be vacated.

“Unfortunately, however, the recent publicity does in my view, change the landscape because of its immediacy, its intensity and its capacity to obliterate the important distinction between an allegation that remains untested at law,” she said.

Justice McCallam said she wanted the trial to be heard this year but she was “not in a position to say” when it could go ahead.

Earlier, Justice McCallum said she had made a mistake in not prohibiting publication around the case.

She slammed the media for her reporting of Ms Wilkinson’s speech, and an interview with Jonsey & Amanda on radio, and warned the distinction between allegation and guilt had been “obliterated”.

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Camera IconA judge in the case involving Brittany Higgins has hit out at the media. Credit: News Corp Australia

“I trusted the press … you were right and I was wrong,” she told the court.

According to the defense counsel, the concern was Ms Wilkinson’s speech – so close to the trial – would impact the impartiality of the jury.

“What concerns me most about this recent round is that the distinction between an allegation and a finding of guilt has been completely obliterated in the discussion on Sunday and Monday,” Justice McCallum said.

“The implicit premise of (Lisa Wilkinson’s speech) is to celebrate the truthfulness of the story she exposed.”

She added the unease around the “seamless elision” of the stories of Grace Tame, whose abuser was convicted and served a prison sentence”, and Ms Higgins, whose allegation had not yet been tested in a criminal trial.

“Ms Higgins is treated as being in the same category. She’s not.”

The judge said she was wrong to trust the media.
Camera IconThe judge said she was wrong to trust the media. Credit: Supplied

“She may be – it may be just a temporal difference, and she can speak the same way as Grace Tame. But at the moment her allegation is not in that category.”

The court also heard Ms Wilkinson would be a witness at the trial.

ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold said Ms Wilkinson’s speech was a “regurgitation of emotion” and was not a significant departure from her previous comments.

“Mighten good journalism include being mindful of the impact of your reporting on criminal proceedings, and remembering to insert the magic word alleged,” Justice McCallum responded.

Mr Drumgold argued the trial did not need to be delayed as the jury could be directed to put her comments, and the media surrounding it, out of their mind.

A new trial date has not yet been set.

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