Illicit Drugs, Sex Workers & Leaked Evidence: 10 Airs New Allegations In Bruce Lehrmann Defamation Case


Channel 10 has presented fresh evidence in its defence against the defamation trial brought by Bruce Lehrmann, including allegations that Seven paid for “illicit drugs and prostitutes” on top of covering his rent to compensate him for his tell-all Spotlight interview.

Judgement for the case was meant to be handed down on Thursday, but Judge Michael Lee has allowed the case to be reopened so former Seven producer Taylor Auerbach can enter the witness stand. The judgement will likely now be delayed until next week.

Lehrmann is suing Ten and presenter Lisa Wilkinson for defamation over an interview the network aired with Brittany Higgins on The Project, in which she alleged she was raped in Parliament House in 2019. Lehrmann was not identified as the assailant in the interview, but he argues there was enough information to identify him. He has always denied the allegations of sexual assault, pleading not guilty in a criminal trial that ended over juror misconduct. His lawyers claim The Project and Wilkinson defamed his character.

Bruce Lehrmann strenuously denies Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations and has always maintained his innocence. Image: Getty.

Ten’s defence to the defamation trial is made up of two arguments: that it aired the truth, and that the story was of public interest, which it believes justified its publication.

However, in a last minute hearing on Easter Sunday, Ten’s barrister Matt Collins KC told the court that Lehrmann’s Spotlight episodes included previously unreleased details and footage that Ten alleges were part of evidence compiled by Australian Federal Police.

This is where Auerbach comes in — on top of his allegations that Seven reimbursed Lehrmann for “illicit drugs and prostitutes… at the Meriton and the following evening at a brothel in Surry Hills”, the former Spotlight producer will also testify that Lehrmann provided Seven with evidence from the aborted rape trial against him, including a dump of “personal” messages between Brittany Higgins and her former boyfriend Ben Dillaway.

Ten has alleged that Seven paid for sex workers and illicit drugs for Bruce Lehrmann. Image: Getty.

If Ten can prove Lehrmann did leak evidence from that trial, then this would be a violation of the Harman undertaking, which is basically a rule that means material obtained in court proceedings cannot be used for any other purposes without the express permission of the court. Breaching the undertaking can bring serious consequences, including punishment for contempt of court.

“Had this come to light before the trial commenced Your Honour may well have faced an application that the proceeding be struck out,” Collins argued, per The Australian.

“This evidence, if accepted, was a contumelious contempt of court, an outrageous contempt of court.”

Collins argues that this alleged “breach of process” and “contempt of court” — while perhaps not directly relevant to the defamation proceedings against Ten — should still affect Lehrmann’s credibility.

Realistically, he’s asking Judge Lee to award Lehrmann the bare minimum (five cents) in damages should he win.

A judgement is expected to be handed down next week. Until then, you can refresh your memory with our explainer on the timeline of events regarding Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann.