Another trial date has been set for the case against the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins in Parliament House after it was delayed again earlier this week due to a speech at the Logie Awards and media reporting.
On Thursday (23 June), ACT Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucy McCallum listed the trial to begin on 4 October 2022, although she noted it may be delayed again for a few days in October if another trial was still running.
Barrister Steven Whybrow, appearing for the accused Bruce Lehrmann, attempted to have the trial held in early 2023 and wanted six weeks set aside for it.
However, Chief Justice McCallum said three months was enough time for the potential prejudice from recent reporting to “fade in the minds” of potential jurors and she could not possibly see how the trial would take six weeks.
The court also heard Channel 10 journalist Lisa Wilkinson has until close of business on Friday (24 June) to provide a written undertaking; if she does, ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC said there were no grounds for him to seek an injunction against her.
Mr Lehrmann’s original trial date was postponed from early June, then the second date of 27 June was vacated less than a week before it was supposed to start.
In Chief Justice McCallum’s judgement from that decision, she said Ms Wilkinson received a silver Logie on Sunday (19 June) for her interview with Ms Higgins that was broadcast on The Project last year.
She said just a few days before the awards, on 15 June, Ms Wilkinson told Mr Drumgold she had written a speech in case she won the award. She was given a “clear and appropriate warning” that Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers could ask for a stay application if there was publicity about Ms Higgins’ case.
In her televised speech at the Logies, Ms Wilkinson “openly referred to and praised” Ms Higgins, she said.
“Unsurprisingly, the award and the content of the speech have been the subject of further extensive commentary,” Chief Justice McCallum said.
While giving her reasons for vacating the 27 June date, she said “somewhere in this debate, the distinction between an untested allegation and the fact of guilt has been lost”.
Last year, ACT Policing alleged that then-26-year-old Mr Lehrmann had sexual intercourse with Ms Higgins without her consent at Parliament House on 23 March 2019. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.