Home Australia Channel 10 was slammed by a judge for Lisa Wilkinson’s grandiose Logies speech. But a few hours later, The Project made a similar mistake.

Channel 10 was slammed by a judge for Lisa Wilkinson’s grandiose Logies speech. But a few hours later, The Project made a similar mistake.

by Elijah
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Project host Sarah Harris introduced a guest whose alleged attacker was acquitted of sexual assault as a

Project host Sarah Harris introduced a guest whose alleged rapist was acquitted of sexual assault as a “rape survivor” just hours later. Network Ten came under fire for Lisa Wilkinson’s infamous Logies speech.

The guest was victims’ advocate Saxon Mullins and her accused attacker, Luke Lazarus, was found not guilty seven years ago of having sexual relations with her without her consent.

Bruce Lehrmann’s trial for raping Brittany Higgins was delayed three months when Wilkinson praised the then-alleged victim’s bravery at the Logies before facing a jury.

His trial was ultimately aborted due to juror misconduct, but Federal Court Judge Michael Lee ruled on Monday afternoon that Lehrmann had raped Ms Higgins.

Judge Lee also convicted Ten of “grossly inappropriate” conduct in relation to Wilkinson’s Logies bombast, which he said she should have known was “fraught with danger”.

He said Ten’s senior trial lawyer, Tasha Smithies, should have been aware of the potential legal problems when advising Wilkinson on the speech.

The Project kicked off its episode Monday night with news of the Federal Court defamation ruling in which Judge Lee ruled against Lehrmann.

While Judge Lee ruled in favor of Ten, he criticized Wilkinson’s February 2021 interview with Ms Higgins on The Project and found that the program had not adequately investigated inconsistencies in her version of events.

He criticized The Project for not questioning the motives of Higgins’ fiancĂ©, David Sharaz, in encouraging Higgins to come forward and for not doing enough to contact Lehrmann.

Lehrmann had claimed that Ten and Wilkinson defamed him when Higgins said in The Project interview that she was raped in Parliament in March 2019.

Higgins did not name Lehrmann, who had not yet been charged with rape, but said he could be identified from what was said.

The Project presenter Sarah Harris introduced a guest whose alleged attacker was cleared of sexual assault as a “rape survivor”, just hours after Network Ten came under fire for Lisa Wilkinson’s infamous Logies speech.

On Monday night, The Project panel spoke to lawyer Justin Quill, who was representing Ten, and said the network had achieved a “huge victory”.

Host Sarah Harris then introduced Saxon Mullins from Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy (RASARA) to discuss Judge Lee’s decision.

“Saxon Mullins is a rape survivor and a victim advocate,” Harris said, without any explanation that Ms. Mullins’ accused rapist had been acquitted.

“It must have been especially triggering for you: you had to go through that justice system after an assault, what was that like?” Harris said.

Mullins was 18 when she accused Luke Lazarus, 21, son of billionaire hotelier Andrew Lazarus, of raping her in an alley behind her father’s Soho nightclub in Kings Cross in May 2013.

Lazarus was convicted in 2015 of raping Ms Mullins and spent 11 months in prison, but was granted a new trial and acquitted by a jury-less NSW District Court judge in 2017.

Sarah Harris described victims' advocate Saxon Mullins as a

Sarah Harris described victims’ advocate Saxon Mullins as a “rape survivor” (above). Mullins’ accused rapist, Luke Lazarus, was acquitted seven years ago of having sex with her without consent.

Judge Robyn Tupman found that while Saxon did not consent to anal sex, there was no evidence to conclude that Lazarus knew she was not consenting or that she had been reckless.

“I have concluded that the Crown has not established that there were no reasonable grounds to believe that the plaintiff was not consenting,” he said.

Mullins remained anonymous throughout the legal process, but allowed herself to be identified in an episode of Four Corners titled I Am That Girl that aired in May 2018.

Nine days after Higgins told his story, Lazarus called 2GB’s Ben Fordham to defend himself.

In that interview, Lazarus said he believed Mullins had “wanted to be there” when he had anal sex with the virgin, four minutes after meeting her.

There was never any doubt that Mr Lazarus had sexual relations with Ms Mullins; the only question was whether or not she consented to it.

Mullins, whose biography on RASARA’s website refers to “his sexual assault in 2013,” said he asked Lazarus to stop. He said she didn’t.

Saxon Mullins was 18 when she accused Luke Lazarus, son of Soho nightclub owner Andrew Lazarus, of raping her in an alley behind the Kings Cross venue in May 2013. Mr Lazarus is pictured outside the court in 2017 .

Saxon Mullins was 18 when she accused Luke Lazarus, son of Soho nightclub owner Andrew Lazarus, of raping her in an alley behind the Kings Cross venue in May 2013. Mr Lazarus is pictured outside the court in 2017 .

‘It has been found [that] “My belief that she was consenting was reasonable,” Mr. Lazarus told Fordham.

“I think this whole night is unfortunate. At the end of the day they have declared me innocent. [Accused persons acquitted of crimes are not ‘found innocent’].

Network Ten did not respond to a request for comment. WhatsNew2Day Australia attempted to contact Mr Lazarus at this workplace.

Mullins appeared alongside Higgins and Wilkinson at the March 4 Justice Rally outside Parliament House in March 2021.

Wilkinson gave his Logies speech in June 2022 when he accepted a statuette for Most Outstanding News Coverage or Public Affairs for interviewing Higgins.

“Brittany Higgins was a political problem,” Wilkinson had said. ‘And governments tend to like political problems to go away. But Brittany never did.

And the truth is that this honor belongs to Brittany. She belongs to the unwavering courage of a 26-year-old woman.

Lazarus was convicted in 2015 of raping Ms Mullins and spent 11 months in prison, but a jury-less NSW District Court judge granted him a new trial and acquitted him in 2017. Lazarus and Mullins appear in cctv images

Lazarus was convicted in 2015 of raping Ms Mullins and spent 11 months in prison, but a jury-less NSW District Court judge granted him a new trial and acquitted him in 2017. Lazarus and Mullins appear in cctv images

‘Thank you for helping change the national conversation. And on behalf of all generations of women to come, thank you, Brittany, for never giving up.’

That speech came eight days before Lehrmann’s rape trial began in the ACT Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum delayed the hearing because what Wilkinson had said “completely blurred” the distinction between an indictment and a guilty plea.

Judge Lee found Ten’s conduct was “grossly inappropriate and unjustifiable” in encouraging Wilkinson to make the comments she did.

‘[Wilkinson] “She only came to give the speech because she felt so let down by those she turned to for advice and counsel,” she said.

Judge Michael Lee also said that as an experienced journalist, Wilkinson should have known that what he said in Logies about Brittany Higgins was

Judge Michael Lee also said that as an experienced journalist, Wilkinson should have known that what he said in Logies about Brittany Higgins was “fraught with danger.” Wilkinson is pictured with his lawyer Sue Chrysanthou SC

“I regret to say that Ms. Smithies’ continued lack of understanding of the inappropriateness of her conduct in relation to the speech reflects, in my opinion, a failure to properly appreciate her professional obligations as a lawyer,” he said.

Judge Lee also said Wilkinson should have known, as an experienced journalist, that what he said in Logies was “fraught with danger”.

Wilkinson had given the speech because he had become “inextricably intertwined with Mrs Higgins” and not because of pressure from Ten, he said.

Mullins campaigned for changes to New South Wales rape legislation, leading to laws requiring a person to do or say something to their partner to show consent to have sex.

She is a recipient of the 2018 Young People’s Human Rights Medal from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

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