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Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case against Network 10 and news.com.au will hinge on whether they can prove he raped Brittany Higgins – as it’s revealed the media giants have rejected settlement offers.

Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers, defamation specialists Mark O’Brien Legal, lodged statements of claim in the Federal Court on Tuesday, initiating legal action against the outlets.

The case against Channel 10 is over an interview aired on The Project in February 2021 where Ms Higgins claimed to host, Lisa Wilkinson, that she was raped by ‘a male colleague’ in Parliament House in 2019.

Mr Lehrmann is also suing News Life Media, an umbrella company of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia, which runs news.com.au, over coverage which featured the same allegations by Ms Higgins.

According to the statement of claim filed against both outlets, Mr Lehrmann’s legal team allege that Wilkinson and Channel 10 were ‘recklessly indifferent to the truth or falsity’ when they alleged a man raped Ms Higgins in Parliament House on March 23, 2019.

Mr Lehrmann denies sexually assaulting Ms Higgins. 

Bruce Lehrmann is pictured on his way to the ACT Supreme Court during the rape trial against him in October

Specifically, it is alleged that Wilkinson ‘was seeking to exploit the false allegations of sexual assault as made by Ms Higgins for her own personal and professional gain’.

In order for Network 10 to win the defamation case, it will have to prove the allegations aired on The Project in February 2021 were true.

If the media outlet can prove Mr Lehrmann sexually assaulted Ms Higgins, he will lose the case.

Mr Lehrmann wasn’t named during the TV show nor was he publicly identified as Ms Higgins’ alleged rapist until August 2021, when he was formally charged with sexual assault. 

However, it is understood that his colleagues in Parliament House knew the allegations were against him prior to the criminal charge.

Mr Lehrmann had pleaded not guilty during his rape trial in the ACT Supreme Court in October last year. He has continually maintained his innocence.

Two cases were filed - one was against Channel 10 over an interview aired on The Project where Brittany Higgins claimed to host Lisa Wilkinson that she was raped (pictured together)

Two cases were filed – one was against Channel 10 over an interview aired on The Project where Brittany Higgins claimed to host Lisa Wilkinson that she was raped (pictured together)

The trial was aborted in November due to misconduct by a member of the jury. The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC then dropped the trial entirely due to concerns over Ms Higgins’ mental health.

Daily Mail Australia understands Mr Lehrmann gave Network 10 and news.com.au a settlement offer, but the outlets rejected the offer and pledged to fight the matters.

It is further understood Mr Lehrmann’s legal team will focus on evidence given by Ms Higgins during the rape trial – where she said Wilkinson and Maiden were ‘fighting’ over when the story would drop and who would win an award.

‘They were fighting so that, come Walkleys time, who could claim what,’ she told the court, referring to the journalism awards.

‘It became not even about me or my story, it became about them.’

Maiden won a gold Walkley for breaking the story in an online article, and Wilkinson won a silver Logie for her one-on-one interview with the former ministerial staffer on The Project.

Brittany Higgins told the court during the rape trial that Lisa Wilkinson and Samantha Maiden (pictured) were 'fighting' over when the story would drop and who would win an award

Brittany Higgins told the court during the rape trial that Lisa Wilkinson and Samantha Maiden (pictured) were ‘fighting’ over when the story would drop and who would win an award

On the morning after the defamation claims were filed, Ms Higgins re-posted a tweet she shared on December 7 last year when it was first revealed Mr Lehrmann was considering legal action. 

On Wednesday morning, shared a screenshot of the tweet to Instagram – reigniting her pledge to testify for the media giants.

She claimed: ‘Following recent developments, I feel the need to make it clear if required I am willing to defend the truth as a witness in any potential civil cases brought about by Mr Lehrmann.’

In response to one Twitter user who said Ms Higgins already ‘had your chance’, the former Liberal staffer wrote: ‘Appears like I may be gifted another one in a slightly more favourable court’. 

A source close to the former ministerial staffer previously told Daily Mail Australia Mr Lehrmann was not contacted for comment before the Channel 10 interview went to air.

Channel 10 denied that claim and said comment was sought, but they did not receive a response.

He will also claim News Life Media did not contact him prior to the allegations being published.

#Bruce #Lehrmanns #defamation #claim #Network #news.com.au #set #court

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