Both the ACT Government and former ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold will be sued for defamation by Senator Linda Reynolds.
It’s the latest twist to one of the most complex and damaging matters of recent years, prompted by allegations Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann raped fellow employee Brittany Higgins in Senator Reynolds’ office at Parliament House in 2019.
Mr Lehrmann was employed by Senator Reynolds as a policy adviser when it’s alleged the assault took place. His criminal trial was aborted by reason of juror misconduct and no finding has been made against him. He has maintained his innocence at all times.
In a suit filed in the WA Supreme Court on Monday, lawyers for Senator Reynolds say she was defamed by a letter from Mr Drumgold to ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan released under freedom of information laws and subsequently widely reported in the media.
She is claiming aggravated damages with interest and seeking an injunction restraining Mr Drumgold and the ACT Government from republishing the material in question. Senator Reynolds alleges the ACT Government is also liable because of its decision to release the contents of the letter.
The letter alleges “disturbing conduct” by Senator Reynolds, suggesting she had directly coached the cross-examination of Ms Higgins and had directed defence lawyers towards evidence she should not have access to.
Mr Drumgold’s letter was also the basis for the Board of Inquiry, which examined the conduct of the ACT’s criminal justice agencies in the case against Mr Lehrmann.
During weeks of startling evidence, Mr Drumgold’s own reputation was seriously challenged and the inquiry’s final report found he had engaged in “serious misconduct”.
Inquiry head Walter Sofronoff KC found that, although Mr Drumgold was correct in bringing the case, he had lost objectivity, misled a court, and wrongly tried to keep material from the defence.
Mr Lehrmann is also currently suing Network Ten and media personality Lisa Wilkinson for defamation in the Federal Court while Mr Drumgold is taking action against the ACT Government.
Senator Reynolds also commenced legal action against Brittany Higgins and her partner David Sharaz earlier this year.
The actions against Ms Higgins stem from a series of social media posts she made on Instagram and X (formerly known as Twitter) that Senator Reynolds says have damaged her reputation.
Mr Sharaz is being sued over tweets he made and a Facebook comment in 2022 alleging Senator Reynolds bullied Ms Higgins and interfered in the rape trial. Mr Sharaz called Senator Reynolds a hypocrite with regard to advocacy on women’s issues.
Senator Reynolds is also seeking an apology and damages from Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz.