Lehrmann sought cocaine after rape claim broadcast
Miklos Bolza |
Soon after Bruce Lehrmann watched a TV report detailing Brittany Higgins’ allegation of rape in Parliament House, he was on the phone to a friend to get cocaine.
The law student viewed the report on Network Ten’s The Project in the office of his then-lawyer Rick Korn, who he had contacted for advice on what to do once the allegations became public.
As the program finished and Lehrmann’s session with the criminal lawyer came to an end, he was messaging a friend to secure cocaine to use at his Sydney apartment, the Federal Court was told on Monday.
Under cross-examination during his defamation proceeding against Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over the February 2021 report, Lehrmann said he had “spiralled quickly” after watching the program.
“Your reaction to spiralling was to ask for cocaine, to have cocaine brought to you,” said Ten’s barrister Matthew Collins SC.
“I was in a bad place, yes,” Lehrmann responded.
Ms Higgins says she was sexually assaulted in the office of then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds in the early hours of Saturday March 23, 2019.
Lehrmann denies that anything untoward happened and contends that The Project report was defamatory and has destroyed his reputation.
Days after Lehrmann allegedly raped Ms Higgins, he was told to pack up his things and left Parliament House, ignoring a request from his then boss for a meeting.
On March 25, 2019, he was called into the office of acting chief of staff Fiona Brown regarding a “security incident”, involving himself and Ms Higgins attending after hours while inebriated over the weekend.
Lehrmann said he had dropped his parliamentary pass off at security after being told to pack up his things.
He did this despite Ms Brown saying she wanted to see him to collect the pass herself before escorting him out of the building.
The law student denied propositions by Dr Collins that he had left without seeing Ms Brown because he “feared” she had learned he had sexually assaulted Ms Higgins.
“That’s ridiculous,” Lehrmann said.
He denied suggestions by Dr Collins that he had declined a further meeting with Ms Brown by saying he wasn’t in the “right headspace” because Ms Higgins’ alleged sexual assault meant his world was going to come “crumbling down” around him.
Lehrmann previously told the court he was in the office about 2am writing in Question Time folders and jotting down notes about what he had learned about French submarine contracts during discussions while out drinking earlier that night.
He has admitted lying to Ms Brown by saying he was there after hours to drink whiskey, and acknowledged he had not explained his attendance in a response to Senator Reynolds who asked why he should not be terminated for misconduct.
While admitting he had not contacted Ms Higgins to see if she had faced similar disciplinary action or had been terminated, he denied accusations by Dr Collins that this was because of the alleged sexual assault.
Lehrmann has settled separate defamation proceedings against News.com.au and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation over their reports about Ms Higgins’ allegations.
The criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court over Ms Higgins’ alleged rape was derailed by juror misconduct and prosecutors did not seek a second trial because of concerns over her mental health.
A landmark report into the ACT legal system and the Higgins case was released in August, making damning findings against former director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold over his conduct during the case.
Lehrmann has separately been accused of raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021.
He has yet to enter a plea in that case, but his lawyers have indicated that he denies the charges.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028AAP