ABC uses new public interest defence


Higgins, additionally a former political staffer, didn’t identify Lehrmann throughout her handle in Canberra however stated: “I used to be raped on a sofa in what I believed was the most secure and most safe constructing in Australia. In a office that has a police and safety presence 24 hours a day, seven days every week.

“The parliament of Australia is secure – it’s safe – besides when you’re a girl. If what occurred to me can occur there, it could possibly occur anyplace. And it does. It occurs to ladies in all places.”

Lehrmann’s attorneys argue he was readily identifiable because the particular person accused of raping Higgins. The previous staffer had been named within the media in August 2021 after he was charged with sexual activity with out consent.

Lehrmann pleaded not responsible to the cost. His trial was aborted in October final 12 months resulting from juror misconduct. The cost was later dropped altogether amid considerations about Higgins’ psychological well being.

In its written defence, the ABC doesn’t admit the broadcasts recognized Lehrmann and denies it carried the defamatory that means alleged by his attorneys.

It says Lehrmann fails to fulfill the intense hurt take a look at as a result of if, as his attorneys declare, “it was infamous all through Australia that Lehrmann was the particular person accused of, and charged with, the sexual assault of Ms Higgins, then [the broadcasts] … wouldn’t have brought on, and weren’t more likely to trigger, critical hurt to Lehrmann’s fame”.

Within the occasion the courtroom finds Lehrmann was recognized and the defamatory that means was conveyed, the ABC seeks to depend on a sequence of defences together with a defence obtainable for honest stories of proceedings of public concern.

Bruce Lehrmann in Canberra this month.

Bruce Lehrmann in Canberra this month.Credit score: Alex Ellinghausen

It additionally pleads harmless dissemination, a defence obtainable to secondary publishers in some circumstances.

But it surely additionally seeks to depend on the brand new public curiosity defence which began in July 2021 in NSW, the place the trial will probably be held, and is now legislation in most Australian states and territories. It has but to be examined within the context of a full trial in Australia.

That defence pertains to publications regarding “a problem of public curiosity” the place the defendant “fairly believed that the publication of the matter was within the public curiosity”.

It says in its defence that “the ABC fairly believed that the Nationwide Press Membership proceedings and therefore the issues complained of involved problems with public curiosity”.

Higgins delivered the speech alongside former Australian of the Year Grace Tame.

Higgins delivered the speech alongside former Australian of the 12 months Grace Tame.Credit score: Alex Ellinghausen

The Ten and Information Corp proceedings, which concern interviews with Higgins broadcast and printed on February 15, 2021, will probably be heard collectively. Lehrmann was not named within the interviews however his attorneys have argued he was recognized not directly.

His attorneys allege the interviews conveyed a sequence of defamatory meanings, together with that he raped Higgins in then defence trade minister Linda Reynolds’ workplace in 2019.

Ten and Information Corp, and their respective journalists Lisa Wilkinson and Samantha Maiden, deny or don’t settle for of their written defences that they recognized Lehrmann however will search to rely partially on a defence of reality if the courtroom finds they defamed him.

Ought to the case proceed to trial and the reality defence be thought of, the media events might want to show on the steadiness of chances – that means it’s extra doubtless than not – that Lehrmann raped Higgins in Parliament Home in 2019.

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