Lisa Wilkinson’s bosses send letter to the judge after Logies speech, Brittany Higgins rape trial
Lisa Wilkinson offers to STOP talking about Brittany Higgins’ case in urgent letter to judge – as prosecutor warns project host’s disastrous speech sparked ‘publicity bushfire’
- Brittany Higgins’ Rape Trial Delayed By Three Months – Until Oct. 4
- Lisa Wilkinson, 62, mentioned Ms Higgins in her Logie speech
- Bruce Lehrmann was due on June 27 in ACT’s Supreme Court
- His lawyer called the situation a ‘forest fire’ and asked to move the track to next year
- Former Liberal staffer pleaded not guilty to assaulting Ms Higgins
Lisa Wilkinson’s Channel Ten bosses have sent an urgent letter to the judge at the helm of Brittany Higgins’ rape trial – as the trial date has been pushed back to October.
Bruce Lehrmann was charged with unauthorized sexual intercourse after allegations that he raped Ms Higgins in an office in the parliament building in March 2019. Mr Lehrmann has pleaded innocent.
He was due to stand trial on June 27, but ACT chief justice Lucy McCallum told the Supreme Court that recent media publicity had compromised his right to a fair trial.
The recent events she was referring to happened Sunday night at the Logie Awards—when Network 10 journalist Lisa Wilkinson referred to Ms. Higgins’ allegations during her one million viewer acceptance speech.
Mr Lehrmann’s lawyer Steven Whybrow asked Judge McCallum in the Supreme Court on Thursday morning whether the hearing could be moved to next year because of the “bush fire” of publicity he believed would still be burning three months from now.
However, the judge said she would not wait and set a new date for October 4.
The Crown Prosecutor cited a letter from Wilkinson and Network 10 that was presented to the court – referring to the fact that “interference in legal proceedings may lead to contempt.”
TV host Lisa Wilkinson (left) pictured with former political staffer Brittany Higgins (right)
It’s unclear whether prosecutors Wilkinson will be charged with contempt of court, but it is understood she could learn more about any ramifications by the end of the business day Thursday.
Contempt of court is when a person called to testify engages in willful conduct that is considered disrespectful to the court or magistrate.
The judge explained that Wilkinson is a key witness in the trial, and that the main concern this week has been to panel a jury for a list with the journalist.
She was convinced that delaying the trial by three months would be enough time to dampen the publicity in the minds of the jurors – despite Mr Whybrow’s protests.
“I told you I didn’t expect it to take more than six weeks, but I would ask for security for six weeks,” he told the judge.
Judge McCallum replied, “I don’t see how a single-incident trial with one complainant could last six weeks.”
“In less than that, I’ve conducted complex murder cases.
“I don’t see how it could possibly take six weeks.”
Lisa Wilkinson is pictured giving her Logies speech on Sunday night
Judge McCallum said on Tuesday: “The case has therefore attracted a lot of media attention … which, while not unprecedented, is certainly extreme.”
Extensive media coverage of alleged criminal behavior is not in itself naughty.
STATEMENT OF NETWORK TEN
Network 10 acknowledges Chief Justice McCallum’s ruling and fully supports Lisa Wilkinson.
“Both Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson take their legal obligations very seriously, including in the preparation and delivery of her speech at the Logies event.
“In light of the ongoing proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
“What’s a potential disaster is that the media reports about such cases in such a way… that it influences the criminal case.”
She explained that while jurors can get directions to reduce bias, this case was different with Wilkinson as the key witness.
Wilkinson won a Logie for her reporting on Ms. Higgins’ rape claims.
“Your Honor, there was no need to make this speech,” said Lehrmann’s attorney Steve Whybrow.
Mr Whybrow launched the residence application on Tuesday after Wilkinson’s speech.
He said a temporary stay – essentially a reprieve – was the only way to allow due process so that “adverse publicity can disappear.”
“It is unsustainable in my opinion to hold a trial under these circumstances at the moment,” he said.
Judge McCallum criticized the media for reporting Wilkinson’s speech.
“What worries me most about this recent round is that the distinction between an accusation and an admission of guilt has been completely erased…on Sunday and Monday,” she said.
“The implicit premise of (Wilkinson’s speech) is to celebrate the truth of the story she uncovered.”
Wilkinson’s speech could drive her in contempt of court.
The case was initially scheduled to start on June 6, but was adjourned to June 27 after Lehrmann’s lawyer withdrew days before the trial.