New trial date for alleged Higgins rapist



The trial for the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins has been set for October after a controversial Logies speech caused the hearing to be postponed.

Bruce Lehrmann was due to stand trial on June 27 for a charge of sexual intercourse without consent.

However, a temporary stay was granted on Tuesday after comments by The Project co-host Lisa Wilkinson reignited publicity surrounding the case.

Defence barrister Steve Whybrow pushed for the trial to begin early in 2023, telling the ACT Supreme Court the fallout from Wilkinson’s Logies speech would still affect a jury in October.

But Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said a three-month stay in the case would allow for any concerns to be ameliorated.

“A period of three months is a significant period where prejudice issues fade in the mind of potential jurors,” she said.

Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold agreed with the revised timeline, saying the 102-day delay was consistent with other rulings due to publicity surrounding cases.

He said he had sought written undertakings from Network Ten and Wilkinson about public commentary on the allegations, and they appeared to be forthcoming.

He has also contacted the Australian Radio Network to seek a similar undertaking.

The Chief Justice said injunctions could be sought through the court if the media outlets were not forthcoming.

Any further applications would need to be filed by the close of business on Friday.

Five potential books citing the case have also raised concerns about further publicity.

Mr Drumgold will contact the authors, including journalists Sam Maiden, Niki Savva and Peter van Onselen, to ensure the books do not include commentary about the complainant. If so, publications could be postponed until the trial is held.

Discussions around workplace culture at Parliament House might also be problematic, Chief Justice McCallum said.

“If the issue is the treatment of an allegation, it is very difficult to have that debate without commenting on inappropriate treatment on the assumed premise the allegation is true,” she said.

“It would be a pretty thin book if you took out everything that is sub judice, that is, everything that is before this court.”

An injunction on publications may be sought if the authors do not cooperate with prosecutors.

The defence pushed for the trial to be listed as running for six weeks, but Chief Justice McCallum said only four weeks would be needed.

“I’ve conducted complex murder trials in less than that,” she said.


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