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Why the media couldn’t name Bruce Lehrmann in alleged rape case

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This week, the media was able to name Bruce Lehrmann as the man charged with two counts of rape in Queensland earlier this year.
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This week, the media was able to name Bruce Lehrmann as the man charged with two counts of rape in Queensland earlier this year.

Lehrmann, who has yet to enter a plea, at first had his identity kept private due to Queensland’s laws. The media could only publish that a “high profile man” had been charged with rape.

When the Queensland Government changed that law, Lehrmann’s lawyer sought to further delay publication, but did not succeed.

Here’s how he came to be named.

Queensland laws

When Lehrmann was first summoned to court in January, his name was listed on court papers but could not be reported by media.

That was because of laws in Queensland which prevented those accused with rape and certain other sexual offences from being named until they were officially committed to stand trial.

In May, the Queensland Government announced it would seek to change that law.

Law change

Queensland’s Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said it had been “based in part on the false assumption that women maliciously make up complaints to damage reputations. These rape myths have absolutely no place in our society and our laws need to reflect this.”

The law changed in September. It instead allowed the accused to apply if they did not want their name published.

Following the law change, Lehrmann launched an application to do that.

Non publication request

Lehrmann’s lawyer argued publishing his name would harm his already fragile mental health and pose a suicide risk.

The lawyer said this was due to Lehrmann’s public profile and the likely media “frenzy” that would follow.

A psychologist who had seen Lehrmann professionally in 2021 and 2022 testified to his “depressed mood and suicidal ideation” and agreed it would worsen.

In 2021, Lehrmann gained a public profile when he was the subject of a rape allegation made by Brittany Higgins, which he denies. A trial failed due to juror misconduct and a planned re-trial was abandoned.

Arguments against

Prosecutors and several media outlets argued against Lehrmann’s request for non-publication.

They noted Lehrmann had stopped formally seeing the psychologist and was not currently seeking professional help.

They also pointed to his decision to conduct major media interviews and commence several defamation proceedings relating to Higgins’ allegations. Prosecutors argued these actions were incompatible with the suggestion that publicity would be harmful to his mental health.

Lehrmann is named

The court dismissed Lehrmann’s application to have his name suppressed. The magistrate agreed his decision not to seek continued professional help and to actively pursue media publicity contradicted his lawyer’s arguments.

Lehrmann sought to review the decision in the Queensland Supreme Court.

In a judgment handed down this week, Justice Peter Applegarth noted his task was to decide whether the magistrate had made a reasonable decision, not whether he agreed with the decision. He determined it was a reasonable decision.

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