Why is Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation lawsuit back in the news?

The final judgment of the case was due to be handed down this Thursday. However, the judge has now agreed to re-open the trial, at the request of Ten, due to new evidence.
bruce lehrmann defamation lawsuit

Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation lawsuit against Network Ten journalist Lisa Wilkinson is back in the news this week.

The final judgment of the case was due to be handed down this Thursday. However, the judge has now agreed to re-open the trial, at the request of Ten, due to new evidence.

Here’s what you need to know.


In February 2021, former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she had been raped in Parliament House by a colleague. Higgins made the allegation in an article in news.com.au and an interview with journalist Lisa Wilkinson on Network Ten’s The Project.

Lehrmann was not named in the interview, but he argues he was still identifiable. He has always denied the allegations.

In 2022, a criminal trial was declared a mistrial due to juror misconduct and a re-trial was abandoned.


After the criminal trial was abandoned, Lehrmann launched defamation proceedings in 2023.

Under defamation law, people can sue if they believe published material has unfairly harmed their reputation.

Alongside Network Ten, Lehrmann also sued news.com.au and the ABC (over its broadcast of a speech by Higgins) for defamation. However, news.com.au and the ABC have since settled out of court with him.

The trial so far

The defamation trial against Ten and Wilkinson began in November and ended in December last year.

To determine if Lehrmann had been defamed, the judge had to answer two main questions:

  • Was Bruce Lehrmann identifiable in Network Ten’s broadcast?
  • If he was identifiable, were Higgins’ allegations truthful?

The judge was due to deliver his verdict on Thursday.

New evidence

Over the long weekend, Ten’s lawyers asked the judge to re-open the trial in light of new evidence.

This new evidence centres around an interview that Lehrmann did with Channel 7’s investigative program ‘Spotlight’ in June last year.

The request to re-open the trial is based on two main issues. The first is around the financial benefits Channel 7 offered Lehrmann to do the interview. The second is the alleged leaking of confidential information to Channel 7.


Evidence submitted to the court last year confirmed Channel 7 paid Lehrmann’s rent for a year in Sydney.

Last month, News.com.au also published an allegation that Seven paid for a massage for Lehrmann, which he denied.

Former ‘Spotlight’ producer Taylor Auerbach has since alleged there were other payments, including reimbursing Lehrmann for “illicit drugs and prostitutes”. Auerbach alleges one Thai massage for Lehrmann and a friend totalled $10,315.

These allegations have not been tested in court.


The ‘Spotlight’ program contained confidential information including audio from a meeting between Higgins, Wilkinson and a producer at The Project.

This material was part of an Australian Federal Police brief given to the ACT Supreme Court for the criminal trial. It was not in the public domain before Channel 7 aired it.

During the trial, Lehrmann denied being the source of the leak, but Network Ten and Wilkinson’s lawyers have suggested new evidence contradicts this.

These are only allegations and have not been tested in court.

‘Spotlight’ producer

Auerbach, who was heavily involved behind the scenes of the Lehrmann interview, has only recently come forward with these allegations.

Auerbach signed an affidavit (a written statement for use of evidence in court) to be entered into the case.

On Tuesday, less than 48 hours before a verdict was due, the judge allowed the case to be re-opened so Auerbach can appear in court on Thursday. This means the judgment has been delayed.

Lehrmann’s lawyers

Lehrmann’s lawyers strongly opposed the re-opening of the trial.

“Just to be clear, obviously a lie under oath is an exceptionally serious matter. It’s just that, in this case, both the principal witnesses are alleged by both sides to have told dozens of lies under oath,” Matthew Richardson, the barrister representing Lehrmann, said.

He added: “This stuff is trivial, it’s just not relevant. And to … reopen [the case] on that sort of material, Your Honour, would be inappropriate.”

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