Lisa Wilkinson rejects idea she put ‘pride and ego’ before Bruce Lehrmann’s right to a fair trial | Australia news #Lisa #Wilkinson #rejects #idea #put #pride #ego #Bruce #Lehrmanns #fair #trial #Australia #news

Lisa Wilkinson has hit back at suggestions she behaved “like a cheap tabloid journalist” in her handling of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations, saying her team investigated the story “extremely well”.

The broadcaster’s much-anticipated evidence began on Thursday in the federal court, where she is facing lengthy cross-examination by Bruce Lehrmann’s legal team.

Matthew Richardson SC, counsel for Lehrmann, began by pressing Wilkinson on her decision to give a speech at the Logies while accepting an award for her interview with Higgins.

The speech took place eight days before Lehrmann’s criminal trial, in which Wilkinson was a witness, was due to start. The trial was delayed due to comments by Wilkinson and the broadcasters Amanda Keller and Brendan Jones.

Wilkinson used her speech to praise Higgins’ “unwavering courage” and said she had “inspired more than 100,000 similarly pissed off, exhausted, fierce women and men”.

Richardson alleged that the speech gave the “irresistible” inference that the broadcaster believed Higgins.

“I want to suggest to you that you put your pride and your ego ahead of my client’s right to a fair trial when you gave that speech,” Richardson said.

Wilkinson responded: “I completely disagree.”

The broadcaster hit back at suggestions that she had been “captured” by her source and had no desire to “check or scrutinise anything she said”.

Richardson accused Wilkinson of being “thrilled by the riveting commercial appeal of the story that she told”.

Wilkinson responded: “Don’t make me sound like a cheap tabloid journalist, Mr Richardson.”

She also denied “coaching” Higgins in a pre-interview discussion about how to answer questions about why she didn’t initially press charges against Lehrmann. In a transcript of the lengthy discussion, Wilkinson told Higgins that she didn’t want to “put words in your mouth” but that she could talk about the culture of Parliament House when answering such questions.

“You knew that Ms Higgins didn’t have a convincing explanation for why she hadn’t pressed charges in 2019, that it could affect her credibility?” Richardson said.

Wilkinson responded that she had needed to “understand why she hadn’t proceeded with a police investigation so that that could be communicated to our audience”.

She also defended the suggestion that there had been a systemic cover-up of Higgins’ allegations. Wilkinson told the court that the government was clearly in damage control and had brought in senior advisers to the prime minister to help deal with the issue.

“When within days, two of the most senior advisers to prime minister Scott Morrison turned up in the office, you know that damage control is going on,” Wilkinson said.

“Also the fact that she was just a junior staffer, and she was getting calls from senior members of Scott Morrison’s office on politically sensitive days for the Liberal party … checking in to make sure she’s OK.”

She was asked how a systemic cover-up was consistent with the fact that Higgins’ superiors, her chief of staff, Fiona Brown, and the then minister Linda Reynolds, had said they would support her if she wanted to take the matter to police.

“Did you think to ask her what was actually causing the pressure [not to report]?” Richardson asked. “Did you see that as a potential problem with her allegation?”

Richardson suggested to Wilkinson that it was something that warranted further investigation, prompting Wilkinson to respond: “I feel we investigated this story extremely well Mr Richardson.”

The court also heard that Wilkinson had some concerns about the status of Higgins’ phone.

Higgins had told the Network Ten team that technical difficulties were preventing her from accessing crucial information on her phone from the time of the alleged rape. She was still able to provide the outlet with a photo of a bruise on her leg.

Richardson questioned Wilkinson on why she had not checked the metadata on the phone to establish when it was taken.

Wilkinson responded: “Mr Richardson, I have to be honest with you, I am not tech-savvy at all. I didn’t know what metadata was, at that point.”

Wilkinson’s evidence will continue on Friday.

Lehrmann is suing Wilkinson and her employer Network Ten over an interview with Higgins that was broadcast on The Project in 2021. He alleges the story defamed him by suggesting he raped Higgins in 2019.

In December last year Australian Capital Territory prosecutors dropped charges against Lehrmann for the alleged rape of Higgins, saying a retrial would pose an “unacceptable risk” to her health.

Lehrmann has always denied the allegation. He had pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexual intercourse without consent, denying that any sexual activity occurred.

The first trial against him was aborted due to juror misconduct and a retrial was abandoned due to the concerns about Higgins’ mental health.

#Lisa #Wilkinson #rejects #idea #put #pride #ego #Bruce #Lehrmanns #fair #trial #Australia #news

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