Bruce Lehrmann ordered to pay almost all of Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson's legal costs.

This story discusses sexual assault.

Bruce Lehrmann has been ordered by the courts to cover Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson's legal costs from his failed defamation case.

The decision came down on Friday, Justice Michael Lee awarding costs in favour of Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson on an indemnity basis, for most of the trial. 

This means Lehrmann has been ordered to pay approximately 90 per cent of Network Ten's legal costs, except some of those costs relating to the Network's statutory privilege defence.

An exact figure of what Lehrmann will have to pay has not been disclosed yet.

Justice Lee said Lehrmann defended his case on the "false basis", lied to police "and then allowed that lie" to go before a jury. He called the defamation case "a baseless proceeding", but also noted "there are no real winners in this litigation". Although Network Ten justified the imputation of "rape," Justice Lee said of the Network "their conduct was not justifiable in any broader sense."

Watch: Lisa Wilkinson's reaction to judge's verdict in the defamation case. Post continues below.

Video via 10 News First.

Earlier this week the court was told that Lehrmann wouldn't be needing to pay his own legal costs.

The legal firm behind his failed defamation lawsuit received no payment after agreeing to a "no win, no fee" deal. A Federal Court hearing was also told that the former Liberal staffer had no third-party financial backers.


The costs for all parties had been estimated to be between $8 million and $10 million for the 24-day civil trial.

It comes after the landmark ruling in April, where Justice Lee found it probable that Bruce Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins. Lehrmann lost his defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson, after Justice Lee found the media parties had established on the balance of probabilities that Lehrmann raped Higgins in Parliament House in March 2019.

Lehrmann was suing based on the February 2021 interview on The Project in which former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was sexually assaulted by Lehrmann inside Parliament House on Saturday March 23, 2019. Lehrmann has strenuously denied any sexual contact with Higgins. 

Announcing the verdict, Justice Lee said he "entirely rejected" Lehrmann's version of events in the ministerial suite.

"Mr Lehrmann raped Ms Higgins," he said. "I hasten to stress that this is a finding based on the basis of probabilities. As I've explained there's a substantive difference between the criminal standard of proof and the civil standard of proof."

Previously, speaking with Mamamia, Professor Rick Sarre — an Emeritus Professor of Law and Criminal Justice for the University of South Australia — said the costs Lehrmann would need to cover were always expected to be "astronomical".

"He [Lehrmann] will be very much out of pocket at the moment. Typically, the winning side gets their costs paid by the losing side," Sarre said last week. "If they do make an order of costs against Lehrmann, for bringing the action in the first place, he will likely go bankrupt."


Looking at other high-profile defamation cases, similar high-money stakes applied too.

Media legal expert Peter Bartlett told the ABC that when he represented the Nine Network in their defence of the Ben Roberts-Smith claim, it went for 110 days and cost some $30 million.

Another expert, University of Sydney Law School Emeritus Professor Barbara McDonald, agreed with Sarre, adding: "He [Lehrmann] will probably be bankrupted. I think many people, dating back to Oscar Wilde, would rue the day that they commenced defamation proceedings — and that's for their reputation sake, let alone for the financial and the impact on their life and those around them.

""In the end, your reputation might be worse than it was before you started."

Lehrmann has always maintained his innocence and hasn't been convicted of any crime.

— 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 national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. If you would like to support their mission you can donate here

Feature Image: AAP.