14 December 2022

Brittany Higgins settles Commonwealth claim while ACT Inquiry into case appears imminent

| Claire Fenwicke
Brittany Higgins walking to court

Brittany Higgins has reached a confidential settlement with the Commonwealth. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has reached a settlement in civil proceedings against the Commonwealth.

It has been reported her original claim was for $3 million. However, the exact agreement reached is not known.

Noor Blumer from Blumers Lawyers said mediation was held between the Commonwealth and Ms Higgins on Tuesday (13 December).

“At the request of Ms Higgins, the parties have agreed that the terms of the settlement are confidential,” she said.

The claim had originally included Senator Linda Reynolds, Senator Michaelia Cash and the Commonwealth. It’s believed the claim against Ms Reynolds was dropped, although Ms Noor did not confirm this.

Ms Reynolds confirmed earlier this year she had originally been advised of the pending civil claim by Ms Higgins by Blumers Lawyers in March.

Ms Higgins had worked for Ms Reynolds when she alleged she was sexually assaulted by Bruce Lehrmann in 2019. She later worked for Ms Cash.

Mr Lehrmann has consistently denied the allegation made by Ms Higgins. A rape charge against him was dropped earlier this month following a mistrial in the ACT Supreme Court in October.

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Mr Lehrmann is considering his legal options, having engaged law firm Mark O’Brien Legal.

“Mark O’Brien Legal is acting on behalf of Bruce Lehrmann in relation to potential defamation proceedings over a number of public statements, broadcasts, articles and social media posts concerning the recently discontinued criminal proceedings against him,” a firm spokesperson confirmed.

In response to reports Mr Lehrmann could bring civil proceedings, Ms Higgins issued this statement earlier in the year: “Following recent developments, I feel the need to make it clear if required I am willing to defend the truth as a witness in any potential civil cases brought about by Mr Lehrmann.”

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An ACT inquiry into the handling of the Lehrmann case is becoming more likely after the ACT Cabinet was briefed about the situation on Monday (12 December).

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury and the Director-General of the Justice and Community Safety (JACS) Directorate, Richard Glenn, both spoke to Cabinet about the issues raised regarding the “actions of authorities involved in the Lehrmann trial”.

“The Cabinet discussed how a broad ranging, independent inquiry could help to identify the roles played by the parties involved in the trial and whether these actions were appropriate. These discussions also noted that an ACLEI investigation is currently underway,” he said.

“The government will provide further updates in the coming days.”

Earlier this week, a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold SC, to ACT Policing Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan was made public under Freedom of Information legislation.

In the letter, Mr Drumgold outlined his concerns about the conduct of police during the investigation, as well as Ms Reynolds’ behaviour during the trial.

The Opposition recently called for a Board of Inquiry into the matter, which has been described as the ACT’s equivalent of a Royal Commission.

Other legal firms have also expressed the need for a public inquiry into the matter, with Marque Lawyers describing the DPP’s letter as “jaw-droppingly extraordinary”.

“For a DPP to write such a letter, the situation would have to be extreme,” it said.

“It requires an immediate public inquiry with compulsive powers.”

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