Network Ten has revealed the email sent to Bruce Lehrmann by staff prior to broadcasting a bombshell interview with former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins, in which she claimed she had been raped in the House of Parliament.
The email, referred to as part of Ten’s defense of defamation proceedings initiated by Mr. Lehrmann in the Federal Court, contained a series of questions sent to an email address believed to be controlled by Mr. Lehrmann .
The email included the question “Did you rape Brittany Higgins as alleged?” and offered him the chance to tell his side of the story on The Project, where Ms. Higgins’ interview would air.
The network announces that the email address was provided to Ten by Ms. Higgins’ friend, David Sharaz.
Its defense argued that staff made “reasonable efforts” to hear Mr. Lehrmann’s side of the story before airing Lisa Wilkinson’s interview with Ms. Higgins.
The document states that a producer called, texted and emailed Mr Lehrmann five times from Friday, February 12 to Monday, February 15, 2021.
The producer emailed an address for Mr Lehrmann, provided by Mrs Higgins’ partner, David Sharaz, asking 16 questions, including: ‘Did you take Mrs Higgins to the Australian Parliament House after drinks?’ and “Did you rape Brittany Higgins as claimed?”
Network Ten has revealed the email staff sent to Bruce Lehrmann ahead of broadcasting a bombshell interview with former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins alleging she was raped in Parliament House
After pleading not guilty to sexually assaulting former colleague Brittany Higgins, Mr Lehrmann went on trial in ACT’s High Court before being aborted for misconduct by a juror.
The charges were subsequently dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions and he has consistently denied any allegation that he sexually assaulted Ms Higgins in Parliament House in March 2019, with Mr Lehrmann filing a libel claim soon after.
Mr Lehrmann is suing journalist Wilkinson and Network 10, as well as journalist Samantha Maiden and News Life Media of News Corp Australia for their coverage of Ms Higgins’ allegations.
Ten said it would rely on a defense of truth and qualified privilege.
The broadcaster also argues that the lawsuit is not tenable as it was filed after the one year statute of limitations as the interview with Ms Higgins – broadcast on 15 February 2021 – is now over two years old.
Ms Wilkinson has retained her own legal team led by high-profile defamation lawyer Sue Chrysanthou SC and has previously filed her defence.
The defense argued that staff made ‘reasonable efforts’ to hear Mr Lehrmann’s side of the story before airing Lisa Wilkinson’s (pictured) interview with Ms Higgins.
Wilkinson arrives in Sydney on Wednesday after traveling to the UK for a week
Wilkinson is seen at Sydney Airport on Wednesday
Mr Lehrmann has alleged that the fragment in The Project broadcast had four false and defamatory meanings, including that he raped Ms Higgins in the office of Defense Secretary Linda Reynolds and that he left her naked on the sofa.
Ten said the broadcast had an average nationwide audience of about 726,728, including 129,000 viewers in Sydney and 193,000 in Melbourne.
Mr Lehrmann was not mentioned in any broadcast or articles, but his claim states that his identity would have been known in political circles and could be further established when he was indicted and named publicly in August 2021.
Producer Angus Llewellyn’s email, sent to Mr Lehrmann on Friday afternoon, February 12, stated: ‘I’m doing a story for Network Ten’s The Project.
“The Project has been made aware of an alleged rape of Brittany Higgins committed by you in a minister’s office at the Australian Parliament House on the evening of March 22, 2019/morning of March 23, 2019.”
It asked him to respond by 10 a.m. the following Monday.
“If Lehrmann had responded to Ten’s attempts to contact him, Ten would have involved Lehrmann’s side of the story, by his response or the content of his response, in the defendant’s cases,” Ten argues in her defense. .
Mrs Higgins’ partner, David Sharaz (pictured together), had provided Network 10 with Mr Lehrmann’s email address
“Depending on the nature of Lehrmann’s response, Ten may have considered offering him the opportunity to participate in an on-camera interview, which could have been included in the cases complained of, or considered publishing the deferring matters complained of to give him a chance to respond.”
Ten said Wilkinson and six producers were involved in putting the story together.
Ten said the production team communicated with Higgins beginning with an email exchange between Wilkinson and Mr Sharaz on January 18, 2021.
While Ms. Wilkinson’s defence, filed last week, does not mention Mr. Sharaz, Ten’s defense says he exchanged phone calls, texts and emails with Wilkinson on several occasions between January 18 and 20.
He was also involved in subsequent personal meetings and text messages with producers, according to the broadcaster.
The interview was taped in Sydney on February 2, 2021 in the presence of the network’s senior legal counsel.
Ten says it did not pay Ms Higgins for the interview, apart from the cost of her flights and accommodation in Sydney.
Ten claims it conducted extensive checks on Ms Higgins’ claims, including conversations with her former flatmate.
It also says it did not mention Mr Lehrmann on the air and referred to him as a ‘senior male advisor’ and ‘senior staffer’.
It also says that before the story aired, the small group working on the story did their best to maintain confidentiality by codenamed the story “ENVIRO” and keeping all documents and scripts off the shared server.
Tien claims that care was taken to distinguish between claims and facts and that the story contained numerous references to ‘allegations’ and an ‘alleged rape’.
On 10 February, Ten also obtained a signed statement from Ms Higgins in which she said: ‘As far as I know and can remember’ the interview was a true account of the alleged assault.
Ms. Wilkinson also relies on defense of truth and qualified privilege.
While Ms Wilkinson does not deny that the central defamatory claim of rape was made, she said she could not admit that Mr Lehrmann was “reasonably identified by a viewer” when her broadcast aired.
Mr. Lehrmann has not yet responded to the allegations in Ten and Wilkinson’s defences.