Brittany Higgins arrives at the Federal Court in Sydney.
Brittany Higgins said the bruise in a photo given to media might have been from falling up stairs. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

Bruise may not have been from alleged rape: Higgins

Sam McKeith December 1, 2023

Brittany Higgins has told a court a bruise on her leg, captured in a photo and provided to media, could have been from falling up stairs and not an alleged assault by former colleague Bruce Lehrmann.

Ms Higgins testified in Federal Court on Friday for a fourth day as part of Network Ten’s truth defence to allegations by Lehrmann a February 2021 report, which aired claims of the alleged rape, was defamatory.

The alleged sexual assault is said to have occurred in the parliamentary office of Ms Higgins’ then boss, senator Linda Reynolds, early on March 23, 2019.

Lehrmann denies any sexual intercourse or intimacy occurred.

Bruce Lehrmann arrives at the Federal Court in Sydney.
 Bruce Lehrmann denies claims by Brittany Higgins of sexual assault in a Parliament House office. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

Under questioning from Lehrmann’s counsel Steven Whybrow SC, Ms Higgins conceded the photo of the bruise, taken in April 2019 and used to corroborate her statement, may not have been sustained in the alleged sex assault.

“It’s possible that it was caused by falling up the stairs,” the former Liberal staffer said.

She said she previously believed the bruise was due to the alleged rape but now “had to accept it as a possibility” that it was from a fall on “that exact night”.

“I don’t know what caused the bruise definitively,” Ms Higgins said.

A screenshot of the photo, taken on another device on January 27 of 2021, was sent to Network Ten and no one asked for the original, the court was told.

Earlier, Ms Higgins denied Mr Whybrow’s claim, related to a timeline of events from January 2021 given to media, that she cast Ms Reynolds and chief of staff Fiona Brown as “villains in this story”.

Ms Higgins said she did not view Ms Reynolds or Ms Brown as “bad people”.

“I didn’t need to feed any story,” said Ms Higgins, who dismissed claims of an attempt to impact an upcoming federal election at the time.

“I did want to change the culture of Parliament House,” she said.

Ms Higgins conceded errors in the timeline but said “now I’ve got a much clearer picture of what happened”.

At the time the document was sent out to some media Ms Higgins was passed out on valium, the court was told.

Parliament House in Canberra.
 Brittany Higgins rejected claims in court that her alleged rape in Parliament House did not happen. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

Queried over why Lehrmann’s name was included on the timeline, Ms Higgins said it “was meant to be redacted”.

On the thought process of wearing the dress from the night of the alleged rape to a Liberal birthday party function of Ms Reynolds in Perth in May 2019, Ms Higgins said “it was my favourite dress, I used to wear it all the time”.

Wearing the dress represented an attempt to “reclaim” it and “shake off” its associations, Ms Higgins said.

“I never could,” she said of the garment’s links to the alleged rape.

She rejected Mr Whybrow’s submission the alleged rape in Parliament House never took place. 

“You are incorrect,” Ms Higgins said.

She broke down on Thursday under questioning over claimed lies and inconsistencies made in statements to police, media, her Parliament House bosses and to a criminal court jury.

Lehrmann, in his evidence in the defamation trial, has admitted giving false statements regarding events at issue, giving different versions of events to police, journalists and in court.

Lehrmann was charged over the alleged rape in August 2021, but his criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court was abandoned because of juror misconduct.

Prosecutors did not seek a second trial over concerns for Ms Higgins’ mental health.

Lehrmann has always maintained his innocence and there have been no findings against him.

The trial continues before Justice Michael Lee on Tuesday.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028