Bruce Lehrmann alleges Channel Ten failed to get in contact him about Brittany Higgins‘ rape allegations because it tried a wrong number and unused and discarded email addresses.
Mr Lehrmann launched a defamation case last month against the network over a Lisa Wilkinson interview with Brittany Higgins – aired on The Project in February 2021 – in which she first alleged she was raped in Parliament House in 2019.
He is also suing Ms Wilkinson, along with news.com.au journalist Samantha Maiden and its parent company News Life Media, owned by News Corp, for an article featuring the same allegations.
The former parliamentary staffer strenuously denies having any sexual contact with Ms Higgins.
One of his claims in the defamation suit is that both Ten and News failed to contact him for comment prior to broadcasting and publishing the rape allegations.
According to defence documents filed in the Federal Court on Wednesday, The Project’s producer Angus Llewellyn made five ‘reasonable attempts’ to contact Mr Lehrmann – via a phone call, text, and emails to two different addresses, between February 12 and 15, 2021.
However, Daily Mail Australia understands Mr Lehrmann will claim the contact details – which were supplied by Ms Higgins fiancé David Sharaz – were either incorrect or long obsolete.
Bruce Lehrmann is suing news.com.au and Channel Ten for airing and publishing rape allegations against him in 2021
Ten has argued in its defence that staff made ‘reasonable attempts’ to get Mr Lehrmann’s side of the story before it broadcast Lisa Wilkinson’s (pictured) interview with Ms Higgins
Mr Lehrmann will claim the mobile number Mr Llewellyn tried to call and text had not belonged to him for two years.
It was attached to an old work phone he was given when he started his job at Parliament House. He left that job in March 2019, and subsequently had to surrender the phone and the number.
Ten also tried to contact Mr Lehrmann using a work email address owned by public affairs agency Parker and Partners.
Mr Lehrmann never worked for the agency, and would therefore have never have received that email. He was formerly employed by the Ogilvy Network, which is a partner of Parker and Partners, but a different company.
In any case, Mr Lehrmann was employed by British American Tobacco by the time The Project sent the email. He had left his job at Ogilvy six months prior.
The personal email address Ten used to try and reach Mr Lehrmann was so old it contains an obsolete domain. He created the address more than a decade ago and at the time was not using it.
In his interview with Australian Federal Police over the allegations in 2021, Mr Lehrmann did cite that same personal email address as the one he was actively using.
It is understood Mr Lehrmann will argue he only logged back into that account after the allegations against him aired and found the email from the network in his junk folder.
Channel Ten declined to make a statement when contacted by Daily Mail Australia.
Brittany Higgins (pictured) alleged Bruce Lehrmann raped her in Parliament House in 2019. He denies the allegations
Furthermore, a defence document filed by news.com.au on Wednesday says the publisher didn’t attempt to contact Mr Lehrmann at all because they knew he had not responded to the same allegations when contacted by Ten.
The news outlet also said: ‘When [Mr Lehrmann] was interviewed by police in April 2021, [he] told police that he had no intention to respond to media enquiries about the alleged rape of Higgins.’
‘It is to be inferred that [Mr Lehrmann] would not have responded to any approach for comment by [news.com.au].’
The email to Mr Lehrmann, sent on the afternoon of Friday, February 12, from producer Angus Llewellyn said: ‘I’m producing a story for Network Ten’s The Project.
‘The Project has been informed of an alleged rape of Brittany Higgins perpetrated by you within a minister’s office in Australian Parliament House on the evening of 22 March 2019/morning of 23rd March 2019.’
It asked Mr Lehrmann to respond by 10am the following Monday, and contained the question ‘Did you rape Brittany Higgins as alleged?’.
Mr Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Ms Higgins, before the trial in the ACT Supreme Court was aborted due to juror misconduct.
The charges were subsequently dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Ms Higgins’ partner David Sharaz (pictured together) had provided Network 10 with Mr Lehrmann’s email address
Mr Lehrmann has continually denied any allegation he sexually assaulted Ms Higgins, a former colleague, at Parliament House in March 2019, and filed a defamation claim shortly afterwards.
In the documents filed in the Federal Court on Wednesday, Ten said it would rely on a defence of truth and qualified privilege.
The broadcaster also argues that as its interview with Ms Higgins was broadcast on February 15, 2021 and is therefore more than two years old, Mr Lehrmann’s lawsuit is not maintainable as it was filed beyond the one-year limitation period.
Wilkinson has retained her own legal team led by high-profile defamation barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC and has previously filed her defence.
Mr Lehrmann has claimed the segment on The Project carried four false and defamatory meanings including that he raped Ms Higgins inside Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office and that he left her on the couch in a state of undress.
He was not named in any broadcast or articles, but his statement of claim argues his identity would have been known in political circles and was further ascertainable when he was charged and publicly named in August 2021.
Senior News Corp political journalist Samantha Maiden (pictured) broke the story of Ms Higgins’ alleged rape
Ten said the broadcast had an average national audience of approximately 726,728, including 129,000 viewers in Sydney and 193,000 in Melbourne.
Ten said in its defence: ‘Had Lehrmann responded to Ten’s attempts to contact him, Ten would have included Lehrmann’s side of the story, by including his response or the substance of his response, in the matters complained of.
‘Depending on the nature of any response from Lehrmann, Ten may have considered offering him the opportunity to participate in an on-camera interview, which could have been included in the matters complained of or considered delaying publication of the matters complained of to give him an opportunity to respond.’
Ten said Ms Wilkinson and six producers were involved in putting together the story.
The network also said its production team communicated with Ms Higgins, starting with an email exchange between Ms Wilkinson and Mr Sharaz on January 18, 2021.
While Ms Wilkinson’s defence, which was filed last week, does not mention Mr Sharaz, Ten’s defence says that he on several occasions exchanged phone calls, texts and emails with Ms Wilkinson over January 18-20.