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Last bid to settle Higgins defamation case

Written by on May 21, 2024

A last effort bid to resolve a defamation case between Senator Linda Reynolds, her former staffer Brittany Higgins and fiance David Sharaz is underway in the WA Supreme Court.

The feuding parties will take part in a mediation session to try and settle the claim before the matter goes to trial in July.

Senator Reynolds addressed the media before heading into the David Malcolm Justice Centre on Tuesday morning.

She commended Justice Lee on his findings in the Federal Court and said it was time for all parties to accept his judgment.

Senator Reynolds and Ms Higgins last met in Perth for mediation in March, but negotiations failed to reach a settlement. If the matter remains unresolved it will go to trial in July.

Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz did not attend Tuesday’s mediation session in person, and have dialed in via AVL.

Over the past year, lawyers have been back and forth to court to try and resolve the lawsuit that was launched by the Senator last year.

Senator Reynolds has alleged her reputation was damaged by social media posts made by Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz about the former staffer’s rape in the Senator’s office at Parliament House.

The social media posts at the centre of the action were critical of Senator Reynolds’ response to Ms Higgins’ rape allegation, and she is now seeking damages from the pair.

The former political staffer made an allegation that she was raped by her then colleague Bruce Lehrmann, an allegation he has always denied.

In the Federal Court earlier this year, Justice Michael Lee ruled that he was convinced to a civil standard – which is different to a criminal standard – that on the balance of probabilities Ms Higgins was raped.

That finding came following legal action Mr Lehrmann brought against Network 10 and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a report on The Project program in 2021.

Justice Lee also found a political cover-up involving Senator Reynolds and others was not true, which Senator Reynolds said vindicated her.

A separate case involving Ms Higgins and the Senator, relating to a trust containing Ms Higgins’ compensation payout from the federal government, is scheduled to take place on Wednesday before lawyers meet again on Friday for another strategic conference.

Outside court on Tuesday, Senator Reynolds said it was time for the Attorney General and his department to admit they got it wrong, an assumed reference to a $2.4m settlement paid to Ms Higgins by the Commonwealth.

“I would like to commend Justice Lee on all his findings, and I think it is time that all parties accept his judgment,” she said.

The compensation payment to Ms Higgins was broken down into five categories which included $400,000 for hurt, distress and humiliation she suffered from alleged conduct during her employment.

She was also awarded $1.48m to cover lost earning capacity, $220,000 for medical expenses, $100,000 for past and future domestic assistance and $245,000 for legal costs.