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Network Ten’s lawyers grilled on advice given to Lisa Wilkinson

Two lawyers for Network Ten have been questioned over the advice they gave the media company and its journalist, Lisa Wilkinson, on the controversial Logies speech and its disastrous aftermath.

user iconNaomi Neilson 15 February 2024 Big Law
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Network Ten’s in-house counsel, Tasha Smithies, told the Federal Court she still “stands by” the legal advice she gave to Ms Wilkinson about the 2022 Logies speech which derailed Bruce Lehrmann’s criminal trial.

Appearing at Mr Lehrmann’s defamation trial, Ms Smithies told Justice Michael Lee she is “accepting and understanding” of the criticisms about the advice and what it led to, but she believed it was the only option given Ms Wilkinson’s circumstances.

The court, and the board of inquiry before it, had been told the advice from Network Ten was an approval of the Logies speech, which was supportive of the rape claims brought by Brittany Higgins. Mr Lehrmann continues to strenuously deny the allegations.


Ms Smithies said that from her position as in-house counsel, she “kept a close eye” on the media leading up to the period in question and believed Ms Wilkinson was “inextricably linked” with Ms Higgins.

She added Ms Wilkinson had become “part of the story”, and any advice to change or prevent the speech could demonstrate to the upcoming criminal trial that Ms Wilkinson was an unreliable witness.

“This was clear and unequivocal in my mind for the 18 months preceding the Logies speech,” Ms Smithies said.

“To deviate from that position in the speech was more prejudicial because it would be seen as she was wavering in her support.”

Her evidence came after Ms Wilkinson told the Federal Court Ms Smithies, Network Ten, and the external Thomson Geer legal team left her in the dark about Mr Lehrmann’s defamation lawsuit.

Thomson Geer and partner Marlia Saunders denied this.

Ms Wilkinson also claimed Network Ten let her take the fall in the media by failing to issue a statement clarifying the speech had legal approval.

On Tuesday (13 February) afternoon, Ms Smithies was asked if she objected to a statement being made by Network Ten about the advice she gave to Ms Wilkinson because she was “embarrassed”.

“I don’t accept that. I am not professionally or personally embarrassed by the advice I provided,” Ms Smithies said.

Ms Wilkinson also told the court Network Ten “refused to put a submission in to clear my name” to the board of inquiry – which examined the abandoned criminal trial – and refused to have a lawyer who could cross-examine former director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold.

Ms Saunders, who appeared after Ms Smithies, was also asked why a statement was never made to the inquiry.

Ms Saunders said she believed it was a “commercial issue” because Network Ten did not want to “jeopardise its relationship with the Director of Public Prosecutions or the ACT Supreme Court”.

But she was unwilling to expand, telling the court it was “not a legal issue”, so it was not something she had turned her mind to.

Ms Saunders also confirmed she has since “abstained” from giving media advice about content relating to Ms Wilkinson.

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