Former government staffer Bruce Lehrmann.
An inquiry into the laying of a rape charge against ex-government staffer Bruce Lehrmann is ongoing. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

Court rules Lehrmann can be named as rape accused

Rex Martinich October 26, 2023

Bruce Emery Lehrmann can be named as the high-profile man facing rape charges in Queensland following a Supreme Court decision. 

Lehrmann, who has not been required to appear in court and remains on bail, faces two counts of raping a woman at Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, in October 2021.

The former federal ministerial staffer was the subject of national media attention after being charged with the rape of Brittany Higgins in the office of then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds at Parliament House in March 2019, while both were employed by the senator.

Brittany Higgins
 Brittany Higgins accused Bruce Lehrmann of rape inside Parliament House four years ago. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

The charges were dropped after a mistrial.

Lehrmann was charged with the Toowoomba rape in January 2023 but could not be named at the time under a Queensland law that suppressed the names of people charged with certain sex offences unless they were committed to stand trial.

When Queensland repealed the law earlier this month, Lehrmann was granted an interim non-publication order to prepare a case for why his identity should be protected.

The Brisbane Supreme Court on Thursday heard submissions to determine whether to grant an application to overturn a Toowoomba magistrate’s decision earlier this month that would allow media outlets to name Lehrmann.

The magistrate denied Lehrmann’s application on October 14 but granted another interim order to allow him to challenge the decision in the Brisbane Supreme Court.

Justice Peter Applegarth on Thursday dismissed the application for a review of the decision and said “no error was apparent” in the magistrate’s decision to deny Lehrmann an ongoing non-publication order.

Barrister Andrew Hoare (file image)
 Andrew Hoare said publicly naming his client would be catastrophic for his mental health. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

“The magistrate considered evidence about the nature, imminence and degree of likelihood of identified harm and … was not satisfied that an order was necessary to protect the safety of (Lehrmann),”  the judge said.

Justice Applegarth said the magistrate was correct to find Lehrmann’s decision to take part in four televised interviews on Sky News and Seven Network between June and August was at odds with his claim to be in a poor psychological state.

“Instead he presented to the public, for reasons (not) adequately explained to the magistrate, as someone who was keen to litigate defamation cases and ‘light some fires’,” Justice Applegarth said.

Lehrmann denied the allegation by Higgins and maintained there was no sexual interaction between the two Liberal staffers.

The case ended in a mistrial in October 2022 after a jury member unlawfully researched subjects including the prevalence of false rape claims. 

The ACT later held a public inquiry into the handling of the case that led to the resignation of chief prosecutor Shane Drumgold.

Rob Anderson KC (file image)
 Rob Anderson KC said the magistrate made no error. Image by Rex Martinich/AAP PHOTOS 

Lehrmann’s barrister Andrew Hoare on Thursday said his client’s mental health would face “catastrophic consequences” if he were publicly identified.

Barrister Michael Nicolson, acting for Queensland Police in opposing the application, said the magistrate had been “very calculated” in forming her decision.

The barrister for several media outlets, Rob Anderson KC, said the magistrate had fairly considered the incongruity between the psychiatrist’s report and Lehrmann’s television interviews that centred on issues he privately said were damaging to his mental health.

“There was no error … (the magistrate) did appropriately take into account all the material before her,” Mr Anderson said.

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