Higgins sobs in clash with Lehrmann lawyer

Bruce Lehrmann is suing Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson in the Federal Court. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Max Mason-Hubers

WARNING: Graphic content.

Brittany Higgins has angrily and tearfully clashed with Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyer as she conceded she had given incorrect accounts about certain events surrounding her alleged sexual assault in Parliament House, a court has heard.

Ms Higgins returned to the witness stand for a third day on Thursday, appearing as a star witness for Network 10 and journalist Lisa Wilkinson in their defamation battle with former political staffer Bruce Lehrmann.

Mr Lehrmann is suing Ms Wilkinson and the broadcaster over her interview with Ms Higgins on the Project in February 2021 in which she alleged she was raped in Parliament House.

Mr Lehrmann has consistently denied the allegations that he had sexually assaulted Ms Higgins in the office of Senator Linda Reynolds in the early morning of March 23, 2019.

According to his version of events, after a night of drinking with Ms Higgins and other colleagues, they both went back to Parliament House.

He says that they went in opposite directions and spent 30 to 40 minutes writing ministerial briefing notes before leaving and that never saw her again that morning after they entered together.

Brittany Higgins became tearful during a clash with Bruce Lehrmann’s barrister leaves the Federal Court today after giving evidence. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift
Brittany Higgins took the stand again on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Adam Yip


The court heard that Ms Higgins had told a police officer, during an initial informal interview, that she had seen a doctor after the alleged sexual assault.

“I 100 per cent acknowledge that is a lie and I know, I wasn’t coping at the time and I just wanted to say the thing that people wanted to hear, I wasn’t looking after myself,” Ms Higgins said during cross examination by Mr Lehrmann’s barrister, Steve Whybrow SC.

She also made similar suggestions to her boss in Senator Reynolds’ office, Fiona Brown, and ex-boyfriend Ben Dillaway, the court heard.

“The reason you didn’t go to a doctor like you’d told Mr Dillaway, and like you indicated to Ms Brown that you were going to do, and like you told the police that you had, was because you hadn’t actually been sexually assaulted the week before,” Mr Whybrow said.

“That’s incorrect, I didn’t have a support system, I was by myself in Canberra, I had no one around me, I was so scared,” Ms Higgins said as she broke down in tears.

Shortly after, Ten’s barrister Dr Matt Collins KC asked to take a break due to concerns for Ms Higgins’ welfare.

Ms Higgins also earlier rejected suggestions that she fabricated to save her job after being found in the minister’s office after hours.

Bruce Lehrmann has denied having any sexual contact with Brittany Higgins. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Adam Yip.


Under cross examination from Mr Whybrow SC, Ms Higgins on Thursday told the court that she “absolutely” accepted that she gave incorrect evidence during Mr Lehrmann’s trial in the ACT Supreme Court last year.

Ms Higgins told the court that she made incorrect claims about the state of her dress when she woke up the morning of the alleged sexual assault.

The court heard that in a transcript of her draft book she wrote that after the alleged sexual assault, she woke up with her dress scrunched up, hanging loosely around her waist.

However that is contradicted by the evidence of a security guard, given during Mr Lehrman’s criminal trial, who said Ms Higgins was found naked in the minister’s office.

“In relation to this account that you’ve written in your draft book, you accept that what you’re indicating there was that you woke up with your dress around your midsection.

“The confidence with which I wrote that was incorrect,” Ms Higgins said.

The court heard she made similar claims during a five-hour pre-interview chat with Ms Wilkinson and a The Project producer, which was played to the court on Thursday.

“You were giving very specific details of your recollections at that time as to where the dress was,” Mr Whybrow asked.

“Yes I was,” Ms Higgins said.

“Are you telling his honour that those recollections were not reliable,” Mr Whybrow asked.

“That’s true, I thought it was on my waist, I was incorrect, I didn’t know where the dress was,” Ms Higgins said.

“I thought it was on my waist because I don’t remember putting it on the next day. So I deduced it was still on.”

Mr Lehrmann’s barrister, Steve Whybrow SC (left) grilled Ms Higgins on inconsistencies in her evidence about some events relating to the alleged incident. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

The court heard that during her chat with Ms Wilkinson she also alleged that Mr Lehrmann had removed her underwear.

However she has in later versions of events said that she was not wearing underwear that night.

Ms Higgins told the court on Thursday that she was “too embarrassed” to tell Ms Wilkinson she wasn’t wearing underwear that night.

“Well, it was a lie wasn’t it?” Mr Whybrow asked.

“Yes,” Ms Higgins said.

Ms Higgins said that she had been truthful about the underwear in several other interviews and during her evidence to the ACT Supreme Court.

“Can I correct the record really quickly … I said that I lied about the underwear,” Ms Higgins said.

“But I just want to make clear in the interview, I told the truth that I wasn’t wearing underwear.

“To the police I told the truth that I didn’t wear the underwear.

“In the criminal proceedings I told the truth that I didn’t wear the underwear.

“It was in one conversation in passing that I had a lie of omission. And I hold my hands up to that.”

Lisa Wilkinson with her legal team. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Adam Yip.


The court heard that in January 2021 Ms Higgins also told journalist Samantha Maiden that her dress was around her waist when she woke up.

She also told officers during a police interview that her dress was scrunched up, the court heard on Thursday.

“I was operating under that belief, yes,” Ms Higgins said.

She added: “I accept I got it wrong for a long period of time and when I heard the other testimony I had to accept that was the truth.”

There were tense moments in the court on Thursday as Mr Whybrow asserted she had lied when she made the sexual assault allegations.

“I suggest to you (the dress) was a significant matter, it immediately follows your alleged sexual assault,” Mr Whybrow said.

“As I was being raped it wasn’t my primary concern where my dress was,” Ms Higgins replied, becoming visibly emotional and tearful.

“Your evidence was that your dress was on when you were raped and then you passed out,” Mr Whybrow said.

“I was deeply more concerned about the penis in my vagina that I didn’t want there,” Ms Higgins said.

“It wasn’t about my dress. I wasn’t concerned about my dress in that moment.”

Mr Whybrow then asserted to Ms Higgins that she “fabricated” the sexual assault allegation.

“I understand it’s your assertion, it’s insulting, but I understand it,” Ms Higgins replied.

Ms Higgins was often emotional as she was cross examined in court on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift
Lisa Wilkinson with Brittany Higgins (right), who says she will donate any money from her book deal. Picture: Supplied.
Lisa Wilkinson with Brittany Higgins (right), who says she will donate any money from her book deal. Picture: Supplied.


The court heard on Thursday Ms Higgins had been paid $108,000 as an advance on a book deal and would receive $216,000 from Penguin Random House when she completed the project.

“The marketability of your future memoir is in some substantial part related to the truth of your allegations that Mr Lehrmann sexual assaulted you,” Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steve Whybrow asked.

“Yes,” Ms Higgins said.

“So you have 216,000-odd reasons, in my submission, to not want to tell the truth, which was that it didn’t happen… You have a financial interest in the outcome of the proceedings,” Mr Whybrow said.

“I declare it now, if I ever actually finish the book, I will donate all 200-and-whatever to charity. I don’t care about the money. Take it on oath right away. I don’t care about it.”The court heard that at the time she signed the book deal Mr Lehrmann had not been charged by police.

Bruce Lehrmann has argued that he did not have any sexual contact with Brittany Higgins on that night. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Adam Yip.


Ms Higgins also accepted that during Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial she gave incorrect evidence.

The court heard that at the trial she had claimed that a bruise, which she took a photo of, was suffered during the alleged attack.

She also told The Project that the bruise was caused by the alleged sexual assault.

However she now accepts that may not have been the case, and that she could have suffered it either in the alleged assault or when she tripped on the stairs at a bar earlier in the night.

“At the time I believed it had been caused by the assault but with hindsight and … in the criminal trial, it was put to me it was possible it came from another source,” Ms Higgins said.

“So I’ve now had to accept it may not have come from the assault itself.”

He was asked by Mr Whybrow whether she had shifted her “narrative” as she received more information.

“No,” she said, saying she was attempting to give an “honest” answer.


Mr Whybrow also grilled Ms Higgins about a panic attack which she said she suffered on the same day as MP Steven Ciobo’s valedictory speech.

She had earlier claimed that she missed the start of the speech.

Mr Whybrow took Ms Higgins to text messages which contradicted that version of events.

“I’m suggesting to you that you alter and evolve your evidence as you find out extra information,” Mr Whybrow said.

“It’s just when something’s put to me that’s clear. I don’t refute that clearly this is this timeline and I can understand that memory is imperfect,” Ms Higgins said.

Ms Higgins maintained that she had a panic attack on that day but she was unsure of the sequence of events.

The photo of Brittany Higgins’ bruise which she says was suffered on the night of the alleged rape. Picture: Seven News Spotlight.
The photo of Brittany Higgins’ bruise which she says was suffered on the night of the alleged rape. Picture: Seven News Spotlight.


After the 2019 federal election, Ms Higgins went to work in Senator Michaelia Cash’s office.

In October that year, a journalist made a media inquiry about an alleged incident in Senator Reynolds’ office.

She was told by Senator Reynolds’ chief of staff, Daniel Try, that he had squashed the media inquiry.

“Was there any reporting of any sexual assault at that time?” Ten’s barrister Dr Matt Collins KC asked.

“No,” Ms Higgins told the court on Thursday.

The court was played a voicemail which Senator Cash left on Ms Higgins’ phone at the time.

“Just checking up on you, you looked absolutely gorgeous on Saturday,” Senator Cash said on the voicemail.

“I really hope you had a lovely time at the federal council. Hoping everything’s okay.

“Daniel’s got everything under control. I promise you. And just remember, we’re with you every step of the way.”

Ms Higgins later reactivated her complaint with the Australian Federal Police during an interview with two officers and informed them that she was set to go to the media.

Ms Higgins told the court - in evidence that was provisionally accepted subject to possible future rulings by Justice Michael Lee - that after Ms Lehrmann was charged, she learned from journalist Samantha Maiden that according to Mr Lehrmann’s version of events he did not engage in any sexual intercourse with her.

She told the court that she was “relieved” because she feared that they were going to have a debate about consent and alcohol.

“I was kind of shocked and happy at the time that he was saying nothing had happened because to my mind it was so preposterous,” Ms Higgins said.

Bruce Lehrmann is suing Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson for defamation. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Swift.


On Wednesday, Ms Higgins told the court that she made contact with police in 2019 however did not make a formal complaint because of concerns it would affect her employment.

However, in 2021, she decided to speak publicly - to journalist Samantha Maiden and Ms Wilkinson - after seeing other stories about the treatment of women.

She described the Four Corners story about Christian Porter as the “trigger point” which led to her coming forward.

Her interview with Ms Wilkinson on The Project is now the subject of the defamation proceedings.

“I couldn’t be silent about it anymore because I felt like it wasn’t just me, it was so many other people,” Ms Higgins said on Wednesday.

“When it became clear it was a pattern at that point, I couldn’t sit on it anymore, it made me feel sick just knowing I was complicit in this, their cover-ups and their silence, because I hadn’t called it out.”

Bruce Lehrmann is suing over Brittany Higgins’ interview on The Project.
Bruce Lehrmann is suing over Brittany Higgins’ interview on The Project.


Meanwhile, lawyers for Mr Lehrmann are set to attempt to block Network 10 from leading evidence from a lip-reading expert.

The court previously heard that Channel 10 was seeking to call a lip-reading expert to analyse CCTV vision of Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins on the night that she alleges she was raped by her former colleague.

The court heard on Thursday Mr Lehrmann’s solicitors were set to challenge both the admissibility of the report prepared by the lip-reading expert, as well as the accuracy of the report.

Justice Michael Lee said Mr Lehrmann’s legal team would not be leading their own lip-reading evidence.


Ms Higgins became tearful at times on Wednesday, as described the moment she alleged she was sexually assaulted by Mr Lehrmann, telling a court that she woke up on a couch in Senator Reynolds’ office.

She told the court that when she entered Senator Reynolds’ suite she went and sat on a ledge overlooking the Prime Minister’s courtyard.

She said her next memory was waking up on the couch.

“So the first thing I remember when I woke up was a pain in my leg, that was the thing that stirred me up. Bruce was on top of me,” Ms Higgins told the court.

“My head was in the back corner of the couch. He was on top of me, his arms were over the top of the touch. He was having sex with me at that point in time and that was what I first woke up to.”

Ms Higgins told the court that he did not stop, despite repeatedly telling him “no”.

“I told him no, on a loop,” Ms Higgins said.

“I don’t know how many times I said it. I told him to stop. I couldn’t scream for some reason. It was trapped in my throat, I couldn’t do it.”

Mr Lehrmann stood trial in the ACT Supreme Court last year after pleading not guilty to one count of sexual assault.

The trial was aborted due to juror misconduct.

The charges were subsequently dropped and no findings have been made against him. He continues to vehemently deny the allegation.

The trial continues.