The 20 biggest revelations in the Bruce Lehrmann defamation case.

This story includes descriptions of alleged sexual assault that may be distressing to some readers. 

Bruce Lehrmann has been in court for the past few weeks, suing Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for defamation.

Lehrmann is suing based on the now infamous February 2021 interview on The Project in which former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was sexually assaulted inside Parliament House while she worked there. 

Higgins alleged Lehrmann raped her in the office of then Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds in the early hours of Saturday March 23, 2019. Lehrmann has always strenuously denied this. 

Lehrmann was not named in Ten's broadcast, but he alleges details made him identifiable, and that The Project report was defamatory and has destroyed his reputation.

Ten and Wilkinson are defending the defamation claims.

The defamation proceedings come a year after the ACT Supreme Court's criminal trial over Higgins' alleged sexual assault was derailed by juror misconduct. At the time, prosecutors did not seek a re-trial because of concerns over her mental health.

Now Higgins is on the stand in the defamation case, following days of testimony from Lehrmann, who was not required to be cross-examined in the criminal trial. 

With the defamation trial underway, here are some of the most news-worthy moments from court so far. 


Higgins told the court Lehrmann snatched her phone "in jest" on the night she first met him.

Higgins says he told her to stay and have another drink on the night she first met him in Canberra at a celebration drinks for Linda Reynolds who had been promoted.

"I was told to stay for another drink," Higgins said.

Higgins said she got her phone back and eventually did leave and ordered an Uber to meet a friend.

"I could no longer drive because I’d had too much to drink," Higgins told the court. "So I didn't have the ability to drive to go to my next appointment to see my friend and then it was like a joke so I couldn't leave and order an Uber. I think that's why Mr Lehrmann took my phone."

Brittany Higgins outside of court ahead of giving evidence. Image: AAP.


Higgins said Lehrmann tried to kiss her soon after she joined Linda Reynolds' ministerial office.

Higgins told the federal court that Lehrmann surprised her when he tried to kiss her on the lips while she was waiting for an Uber or taxi, following after a subsequent night of work drinks. 

"Mr Lehrmann came out with me, we both left at the same time. While I was waiting for the cab or the Uber, Mr Lehrmann came up to me, he came into my space and he tried to kiss me on the lips," she said.

Higgins said she "apologised" and "was shocked" and said no. She said that Lehrmann "seemed embarrassed". Higgins said she assumed she had "led him on", later clarifying that she didn't think she had. 

"I just naturally thought I had done something to give him that impression. I didn't think much of it. I felt embarrassed by the whole thing. I don't know why I felt embarrassed, I shouldn't of."

Higgins said she put the event "to the wayside" as she "didn't want to draw attention to it again".

Higgins gave evidence about the night of the alleged assault.

Higgins said that when she arrived at Parliament House with Lehrmann on the night of the alleged assault, she was heavily "inebriated".

Higgins told the court Lehrmann was touching her thighs, had his arm around her and was "all over in my space" hours before they went to Parliament House. Higgins, Lehrmann and other colleagues had been at the 88mph nightclub, Higgins saying she remembers Lehrmann being "handsy" with her and she didn't like it but she tolerated it.


She then gave evidence about what allegedly happened when the pair were in Minister Linda Reynold's office.

"I told him no on a loop. I told him to stop. I couldn't scream for some reason, it was just trapped in my throat. I felt like it had been going on for a little while."

The barrister asked Higgins if Lehrmann responded to her calls to stop the alleged assault.

She said: "No, he didn't even acknowledge it."

Higgins said that when the alleged assault finished, "no words were spoken" between her or Lehrmann and he left the office. Higgins said that she couldn't get off the couch, where she says the alleged assault took place, either due to the alcohol she had consumed or a feeling of shock. She then passed out.

Lip-reader gives evidence re interactions between Higgins and Lehrmann at Canberra bar.

Tim Reedy, a lip-reader who travelled from the UK, gave evidence in court. He told the court he spent days studying CCTV footage from a bar in Canberra that shows interactions between Lehrmann and Higgins on the night of the alleged assault. 

Reedy said he believed Higgins was being "plied with alcohol".

"I saw that the man was encouraging her, enticing her to drink everything that was on the table," Reedy claimed.


"She said, 'I don't want to.' That's what I believe she said."

The judge has accepted the tender of Reedy's evidence, which he said was very frank. There had been back and forth between barristers on both sides as to whether Reedy's evidence was accurate. 

The judge said following the evidence: "I accept that lip-reading is not an exact science but the guide for the admissibility of expert evidence is not a counsel of perfection. One has to take areas of specialised knowledge as one finds them."

Security guard says she found Higgins "completely naked" in Senator Reynolds' office in Parliament House.

A former security guard at Parliament House, Nikola Anderson, told the court that she found Higgins on the night in question in Senator Reynolds' office. 

Anderson said Higgins was "completely naked" and "rolled over into the foetal position" facing Senator Reynolds' desk. The security guard had been performing a welfare check, which was conducted at 4am. 

Anderson told the court that Higgins didn't appear to be in any trouble or distress and she opened her eyes and looked at her but did not speak; and her make-up was intact.

Anderson said Higgins' white dress and shoes were next to the couch and "it just looked like it had been taken off and thrown on the floor".

The security guard said that she believed Higgins "had been drinking" on the night in question, but Anderson could not "make judgement" on the level of intoxication.


Higgins' boss Fiona Brown recounts what Higgins told her.

Higgins maintains that Fiona Brown was the first person she disclosed her allegation to, as Brown was the senior political staffer in the office of Senator Reynolds.

In court Brown denied that Higgins told her "Bruce was on top of me" during their March 26 meeting, also denying she responded "Oh God" to what Higgins told her. Brown also denied that Higgins cried in front of her during the meeting.

"She just had a little bit of water in her eyes," Brown said, adding that she handed her a tissue as well as a brochure a counselling service available to staff. Brown said during their March 28 meeting, that Higgins told her: "Bruce was on top of me."

Brown recounted in court: "It came out of the blue... there was no hint... it was a blindside and it took me by surprise."

Brown agreed that she did not follow senator Reynolds' instruction to report the incident to police.

"Higgins had still not given me an allegation … to me I needed more than that," Brown claiming the only information she had was that Higgins told her "he was on top of me".

Detective says she received "pushback" from Parliament House about accessing CCTV footage.

Detective Senior Constable Sarah Harman described the "frustrating" difficulties in retrieving CCTV footage of Higgins and Lehrmann in Parliament House on the night of the alleged sexual assault.

"It was frustrating... I never encountered such pushback on obtaining CCTV, and it was incredibly frustrating for me," Harman said.


Police were told the footage could not be handed over after the election was called on April 11 and the government went into caretaker mode. The video was eventually obtained and was played to the court.

Higgins was "hysterical" when told her allegation might be reported in the media, the detective said.

Det Sen Const Harman said the Australian Federal Police received a media inquiry from the Canberra Times about the alleged sexual assault, including a claim it might be referred to in Senate estimates hearings.

When Harman relayed this to Higgins, Harman told the court that Higgins was "hysterical at that point, very difficult to understand".

"Obviously I had concerns about her welfare during that call because she was hysterical," Harman said. "I didn't quite expect that reaction from her."

Higgins ex-boyfriend details how Higgins disclosed her allegation with him. 

Former Liberal staffer Ben Dillaway gave evidence in court. He is also the ex-boyfriend of Higgins, with the pair dating during the time Higgins was allegedly sexually assaulted by Lehrmann.

In the aftermath of the alleged assault, Dillaway said he spoke to Higgins on the phone and she was "acting cagey like she didn't want to tell me what had happened".

When Higgins disclosed her allegation, Dillaway said "She told me that she didn't want a soul to know about what had happened to her".

"So I observed that Ms Higgins was putting on a brave face and going about her tasks and her jobs as best as she could. You know, she told me how she spent an amount of time in a Parliament House bathroom, crying [and] how she was generally not coping well."


Higgins felt "relieved" when she heard Lehrmann was going to deny all sexual contact with her.

The court heard that Higgins found out the news from a journalist that Lehrmann was going to deny all sexual contact with Higgins. 

Higgins said she felt relieved because she was afraid Lehrmann would claim it was consensual sex.

"I was really relieved. I thought that like we were going to have this very nuanced debate about consent and alcohol and all this kind of stuff. And I was really shocked and kind of happy at the time that he was saying that nothing had happened. Because to my mind, it was so preposterous," she said.

In court, Higgins detailed the moment a media inquiry was made into the alleged sexual assault.

Higgins told the court that in October 2019, when she worked for Senator Michaelia Cash, she was told there had been a media inquiry about an alleged sexual assault in Linda Reynolds' office.

She said the media inquiry was in relation to an alleged sexual assault that occurred on March 22, 2019. Higgins told the court she met with Senator Cash, who assured her "she would make the media inquiry go away".

"Immediately, Michaelia Cash embraced me and gave me a hug," Higgins said. "I don't specifically remember what she said… she was just reassuring me… [and] said words to the effect that everything would be okay."

Higgins was asked to explain her thought process behind re-wearing the dress she wore on the night of the alleged assault to a Liberal party event months later.

Higgins told the court she wore the same dress to "reclaim" her favourite garment.

Lehrmann's barrister Steven Whybrow SC queried Higgins over the thought process of re-wearing the dress.


"It was my favourite dress, I used to wear it all the time," Higgins said, adding that wearing the dress to the function was an attempt to "reclaim" it and "shake off" its associations.

Higgins says she will donate proceeds of any future books to charity.

During cross-examination, Higgins promised that if she were to write a book about her alleged sexual assault, the proceeds would be donated to charity.

Higgins had previously signed a book deal with Penguin Random House for a non-fiction account of the events.

"I declare it now, if I ever actually finish the book, I will donate [the outstanding contractual sum of $216,667] to charity. I don't care about the money," she said.

"It's tentatively on hold but I have no idea if it may happen one day but also I don't ever want to do this again."

Lehrmann called the former PM's speech to Higgins in Parliament "stupid".

Then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed Parliament in February 2022, where he acknowledged people who had faced bullying, harassment and sexual assaults in Commonwealth workplaces, following an inquiry which came from Higgins' alleged sexual assault in a minister's office in 2019. 

Morrison commended Higgins in his speech, for speaking up about her allegations. 

The speech was addressed in court, Wilkinson's barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC asking Lehrmann: "You heard the Prime Minister refer to Ms Higgins as having the courage to stand. Do you remember that?" 

"In his stupid parliament speech? Yes," Lehrmann responded.


Wilkinson's barrister flagged she would move on and not comment on his reply.

Lehrmann said Lisa Wilkinson acted in a "high-handed and reckless manner" during her Logies speech.

Lehrmann said Wilkinson acted in a "high-handed and reckless manner" and prejudiced his approaching trial in a speech she made at the Logies in June 2022.

Lehrmann later gave interviews with rival media company Seven Network and said the Logies speech and an associated delay in his criminal proceedings "afforded [his lawyers] the opportunity to dig deeper".

Lehrmann was found to have lied about his reasoning for being at Parliament House on the night of the alleged assault.

Ten's barrister drew a number of admissions from Lehrmann, including that he gave false statements to the federal police, acting chief of staff Fiona Brown and Senator Reynolds about what happened that night.

Lehrmann was also questioned over allegedly inconsistent statements made during his trial regarding the alleged assault which do not align with comments made earlier in court or in public.

Lehrmann lied to acting chief of staff Fiona Brown about why he entered Parliament House after hours on the night he is accused of having sexually assaulted Higgins. 

He told her he went to drink whisky but in court said the real reason was to collect his house keys and work on question time briefs - something he said he kept from Brown because he was aware accessing the documents may trigger a national security incident involving the AFP.

Lehrmann also admitted lying about his reason for lying to Brown about why he entered Parliament House after hours.


Lehrmann said in the Spotlight interview with Seven that the reason he lied about going to Parliament House to drink whisky was because he was worried about his involvement in an earlier minor security incident.

Lehrmann admitted in court that he lied to security to get in to Parliament House when he told them that he needed to pick up documents for the defence minister. He told the court the real reason for visiting his workplace after hours was to collect his house keys and to work on question time briefs.

Lehrmann said he claimed he needed to pick up documents for Reynolds because if he told the truth about needing to pick up his house keys "that security would have said 'bugger off and come back next week'. And I needed to get home."

The Seven Network paid for Lehrmann's rent following his Seven Spotlight interview.

In court it was revealed that Lehrmann said Seven Network paid for accommodation in locations where the filming of the Spotlight interview took place. It was confirmed Seven has been paying his rent for a year as part of an arrangement to deliver the interview.

Wilkinson's barrister said: "It was part of the agreement, wasn't it, that you were paid for 12 months of accommodation by Channel Seven, yes? That occurred from June 2023, and it's to be paid until June 2024."

Seven has previously said it "made no payment to Bruce Lehrmann for the interview" but rather it "assisted with accommodation as part of the filming of the report".


Lehrmann told the court he did not know how much it had cost the network.

Lehrmann's exact rent costs were revealed.

Court documents revealed how much Channel Seven has paid for Lehrmann's rent.

Seven agreed to pay Lehrmann's rent for 12 months in return for exclusive access to him from mid-2023 to mid-2024. 

An invoice uploaded shows the fortnightly rent cost $4,000 for a period in June. Over 12 months, the cost would total more than $100,000. 

Following on from the rent revelation, The Walkey Foundation has revoked Seven Spotlight's nomination.

The Walkley Foundation has revoked the nomination given to Seven's Spotlight, following their interview with Lehrmann in June. 

The Walkleys said the episode was no longer "eligible for consideration" as a finalist because the entry did not accurately describe the "extent of benefits" provided to Lehrmann. This is in reference to the rent information detailed in court. 

"The Board of The Walkley Foundation has reviewed documents uploaded to the Federal Court this week which show an exclusivity agreement made between Seven and Bruce Lehrmann in April 2023 and a leasing arrangement which provided Mr Lehrmann with 12 months of accommodation," the statement said.

"The Walkley Foundation has revoked the story’s finalist status in the 68th Walkley Awards."

Lehrmann sought cocaine after The Project interview with Higgins and Wilkinson was broadcast.

Soon after Lehrmann watched a TV report detailing Higgins' allegation of sexual assault in Parliament House, he was on the phone to a friend to get cocaine.

Lehrmann viewed the report on Network Ten's The Project in the office of his then-lawyer Rick Korn, who he had contacted for advice on what to do once the allegations became public.


As the program finished and Lehrmann's session with the criminal lawyer came to an end, he was messaging a friend to secure cocaine to use at his Sydney apartment, the federal court was told.

"I was in a bad place, yes," Lehrmann said.

The defamation trial against Network 10 and Wilkinson continues. 

With AAP.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. 

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a Queensland-based organisation that helps women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence. If you would like to support their mission to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most, you can donate here.

This article was originally published on November 29, 2023, and has since been updated with new information. 

Feature Image: AAP.