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Lehrmann allegedly led lawyers ‘into error’, court hears

Lawyers were allegedly “led into error” by Bruce Lehrmann, who has been accused of committing an “outrageous contempt of court”.

user iconNaomi Neilson 02 April 2024 Big Law
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In an urgent application on Tuesday (2 April) to reopen the defamation trial, Network Ten’s counsel, Dr Matthew Collins, accused Lehrmann of giving material to Seven in breach of an implied undertaking.

Justice Michael Lee agreed to reopen the evidence and indicated the judgment may be pushed back to as early as next week.

The material, made up of text messages exchanged between Brittany Higgins and former boyfriend Ben Dillaway, was provided to Lehrmann in an e-brief prepared by police prior to the rape trial.


The trial was abandoned, and Lehrmann has maintained his innocence.

Collins alleged Lehrmann handed over the texts with the intention of exposing Higgins’ “most intimate, private messages”, with the hope “they would be broadcast and disseminated to her embarrassment”.

In addition to breaching the implied undertaking not to use it outside of the criminal trial, Collins accused Lehrmann of denying he handed the material to Seven when Network Ten pressed his lawyers on it.

Collins said that if Justice Lee accepted the new evidence and reopened the defamation trial, it would show Lehrmann committed an abuse of process and is in contempt of court.

“It was an outrageous contempt of court, furthered by him giving instructions which must been wrong to solicitors and senior counsel.

“We say [Lehrmann’s lawyers] have made submissions that are incorrect without any fault on their part,” Collins said.

Collins added that the issue needed to be “ventilated” by the court because it goes to Lehrmann’s credit.

Justice Lee asked Collins to clarify whether the credit issue would be relevant to the abuse of process submissions.

“Lehrmann’s credit is central to the determination of the substantive issues in this case,” Collins submitted.

Sue Chrysanthou, counsel for Lisa Wilkinson, alleged that Lehrmann and Seven lied about the “financial benefits” Lehrmann received for the interview with its Spotlight program.

Chrysanthou said it was originally known that Seven forked out more than $100,000 to pay for a year of rent for Lehrmann, but new evidence allegedly suggested that Seven journalist Taylor Auerbach paid for more.

She said this demonstrated neither Lehrmann nor Seven were “honest”.

Counsel for Lehrmann, Matthew Richardson, argued the submissions were “trivial” and giving leave to reopen “would be inappropriate.

The evidence in the defamation trial initially concluded months ago, and the judgment was scheduled to be handed down later this week.

The new evidence will be heard from Thursday this week.

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