Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyers argue Brittany Higgins may have taken off her dress in Sen. Linda Reynolds’ office, perhaps to avoid vomiting on him, since he maintains he did not rape his former parliamentary colleague, court documents revealed.
In the coming months Judge Michael Lee is expected to hand down his decision in the successful defamation trial between Lehrmann and Network 10, heard in the Federal Court in December.
Lehrmann sued the network and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over their reporting on Ms. Higgins’ allegations on The Project in February 2021.
A central element of the trial is what happened behind closed doors in Senator Reynolds’ office in the early hours of Saturday, March 23, 2019, after Lehrmann and Higgins returned to parliament after a night drinking in two Canberra bars.
In documents released by the court on Friday, Lehrmann’s lawyers maintained that there was no sexual relationship between the former political staffer and Higgins.
Bruce Lehrmann is pictured outside the Federal Courthouse in December last year.
Brittany Higgins was wearing a white sheath dress (pictured) the night she alleges she was raped. Bruce Lehrmann appears next to her in a light blue shirt.
“Mr. Lehmann contends that there is no sufficient evidentiary basis to reach a positive conclusion that any sexual relationship, consensual or not, took place,” Mr. Lehrmann’s attorneys wrote in their closing arguments.
Mr Lehrmann maintains that he did not rape Ms Higgins and that he went to Parliament early in the morning to collect his keys and sat at his desk taking notes on the Question Time summaries before leaving.
According to his testimony, he turned left when he entered Senator Reynolds’ office and Mrs. Higgins turned right, and he did not see her again that night.
Higgins has alleged that she blacked out and woke up to find Lehrmann raping her on a couch in Senator Reynolds’ private office.
During her testimony, Ms Higgins told the court that on several previous occasions she had made incorrect statements about the state of her dress when she woke up the morning of the alleged sexual assault.
The court was told she had previously drafted and told police and journalists that when she woke up inside parliament on the morning of March 23, 2019, the dress was hanging from her waist like a belt.
However, the court was told that version of events was contradicted by evidence from a security guard who said Ms Higgins was discovered naked.
Brittany Higgins pictured, centre, outside the Federal Court in December last year.
Mr. Lehrmann’s lawyers further argued that there were “simply too many other plausible possibilities” about “why Ms. Higgins was found naked in that office” to allow Judge Lee to establish exactly what occurred.
Lehrmann’s lawyers argued that Higgins may have taken off her dress because she was feeling sick and didn’t want to risk vomiting on it.
“Another explanation is that Ms. Higgins may have vomited on her dress at some point and removed it before lying on the minister’s couch and then passed out or fell asleep,” Mr. Lehrmann’s lawyers argued in closing arguments.
“In the morning she may or may not have tried to wash her dress in Minister Reynolds’ bathroom.”
They maintain that the “critical point” is that there are a number of “plausible explanations” for why Mrs Higgins took off her dress.
However, Network 10’s lawyers argue that Higgins had dismissed any theory that she removed the dress herself.
“Ms Higgins did not accept that it was possible that she had removed the dress herself,” they wrote in their final submissions, which were also published on Friday.
Lisa Wilkinson is pictured, left, outside the Federal Court in December last year.
“The effect of his evidence was that he didn’t remember doing it and it just wasn’t something that would ever happen.”
They also sought to address inconsistencies between Ms Higgins’ evidence at her criminal trial and the security guard finding her naked.
During her testimony at the Federal Court, Ms Higgins admitted she was wrong about where her dress was placed when she woke up.
“In all the circumstances, the court should reject all three attacks on Ms Higgins’ credibility,” Ten’s lawyers argued.
“Despite inconsistencies in her evidence which she frankly acknowledged, overall she was a candid and honest witness.”
They further argued that Ms Higgins’ evidence relating to the alleged sexual assault was “crude and compelling, and was consistent with objective evidence, where available”.