Brittany Higgins (file image)
A TV producer said he had no proof Brittany Higgins would lose her job by filing a rape complaint. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS
  • crime, law and justice

‘No proof’ Higgins would lose job for rape complaint

Miklos Bolza December 13, 2023

There was no proof to back up claims Brittany Higgins would lose her job at Parliament House if she filed a police complaint about her alleged rape by Bruce Lehrmann, a court has heard.

Network Ten producer Angus Llewellyn made the admission on Wednesday as he gave evidence to the Federal Court.

He also rejected suggestions by Lehrmann’s barrister Matthew Richardson SC that the February 2021 report on The Project regarding the Higgins claims was intended to “do a number” on his client.

Network Ten producer Angus Llewellyn
 Angus Llewellyn denied the report on The Project was intended to “do a number” on Bruce Lehrmann. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

“It’s a ridiculous suggestion and completely incorrect,” he said.

Lehrmann is suing for defamation over the broadcast and has denied the alleged sexual assault ever took place.

“Are you saying that at the time the program was broadcast, you had – to use your words – no proof of an allegation that she was being told that if she proceeded with police charges … she’d lose her job,” Justice Michael Lee asked.

“I didn’t have proof,” Mr Llewellyn said.

Ms Higgins alleges she was raped by Lehrmann in the Parliament House office of their then-boss, Senator Linda Reynolds, in March 2019.

On January 20, 2021 Wilkinson texted Mr Llewellyn about an “explosive political story” with the aim of introducing him to Ms Higgins.

“It is an extraordinary cover-up involving Linda Reynolds, Michaelia Cash and the PMO,” Wilkinson wrote.

“The woman at the centre of it all is ready to talk.”

One week later, in a five-hour meeting at The Darling Hotel with Wilkinson and Mr Llewellyn, Ms Higgins initially said Senator Reynolds and her acting chief of staff Fiona Brown had been supportive of her going to police.

Lisa Wilkinson (left)
 Lisa Wilkinson (left) texted Mr Llewellyn about an “explosive political story”. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

She then separately said that going to police would not have been feasible, that Senator Reynolds and Ms Brown would not have stopped her reporting the matter, and then that they were not supportive of her doing so.

“When you heard all of that, did it occur to you that there was a serious problem with what she was saying?” asked Mr Richardson.

“None whatsoever,” Mr Llewellyn said.

The producer attempted to get a statement from Lehrmann, sending him an email at 2.45pm on the Friday and making a phone call on the Monday the day The Project report was broadcast.

Mr Llewellyn rejected Mr Richardson’s propositions these attempts to contact Lehrmann were not genuine and were made to “go through the motions”.

Lehrmann has claimed he infrequently checked one email used by Ten and that another email and the mobile number obtained by the network were no longer in use.

Mr Llewellyn did not try to contact Lehrmann via his LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram profiles saying these were “inappropriate” forums to discuss a serious topic like sexual assault.

Mr Llewellyn said he had waited until 72 hours before The Project aired to contact Parliament House employees or friends and colleagues of Lehrmann and Ms Higgins because she was worried the government might step in to stop the story going public.

Bruce Lehrmann (left) with Matthew Richardson
 Suggestions by Mr Richardson (R) that the story was under wraps for commercial reasons were denied. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

Suggestions by Mr Richardson that he had kept the story under wraps for commercial reasons to retain the network’s exclusive were denied.

“That’s not how journalism works,” Mr Llewellyn said. 

Statements provided to The Project team by the federal government and police contradicted Ms Higgins’ story she had not been supported after disclosing the alleged rape and that sexual assault officers had difficulty accessing CCTV footage, Mr Richardson suggested.

Mr Llewellyn said there was no need to go back and question Ms Higgins on these matters nor was there a need to change what was due to be said on The Project other than to add a few lines.

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

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

Lehrmann is also before Queensland courts accused of raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021.

He has not entered a plea, but his lawyers have indicated he denies the charges.

1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028