Linda Reynolds says she has been the victim of ‘vile trolling’ over Brittany Higgins case as defamation trial looms

The defamation case between Senator Linda Reynolds and her former employee Brittany Higgins appears headed for trial in July after mediation talks between the parties collapsed for the second time in Perth on Tuesday.

Liberal Senator Reynolds is suing Ms Higgins and Ms Higgins’ partner David Sharaz in the Supreme Court in Washington over a series of social media posts which she claims were false and damaging to her reputation.

A last-minute attempt to abort the defamation case was abandoned on Tuesday after the parties spent just over three hours in a closed-door mediation session, following another failed session last month.

Screenshot of a judge reading a verdict on a webcast.

Senator Reynolds wants everyone to accept Judge Michael Lee’s rulings on the case.

Heading into Tuesday’s hearing in Perth, Senator Reynolds called on “all parties” to accept federal court judge Michael Lee’s findings in a separate legal action involving Bruce Lehrmann, another of her former employees.

“I would like to congratulate Judge Lee on all of his findings and I think it is time for all parties in this to accept all of his judgments, and that includes the finance minister, the attorney general and the attorney general’s department,” the senator said. Reynolds.

“It’s time for them to admit they were wrong.”

Lehrmann brought a civil defamation case against Channel 10 and journalist Lisa Wilkinson, but in April Judge Lee found that, considering the odds, Lehrmann raped Ms Higgins in Parliament in 2019.

There are no criminal findings against Lehrmann and he has always denied raping Ms Higgins.

But Judge Lee also concluded that allegations of “political cover-up”, as recounted by Ms Higgins in an interview broadcast on Channel 10, were not supported by evidence.

Bruce looks serious as he walks through a crowd of reporters, dressed in a suit and tie.

Judge Michael Lee ruled that Bruce Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins on the balance of probabilities.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

She criticized Higgins and Sharaz for having “crafted a narrative” and accused others – including federal ministers – of “putting up obstacles” and making her choose between her career and justice.

Government agreement

Following the rape, Ms Higgins launched civil action against Senator Reynolds, Senator Michaelia Cash and the Commonwealth.

Court documents revealed that she intended to sue for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, disability discrimination, negligence and victimization.

Michaelia Cash at Doubleview Elementary School

WA Senator Michaelia Cash was among those Brittany Higgins had attempted to sue before the federal government offered a settlement.(ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)

Before the action could move forward, the federal government paid him a $2.4 million settlement, without admission of liability.

Senator Reynolds was reportedly not allowed to participate in the deal, which was signed after Labor ousted the Liberals in the 2022 election.

Outside court, Senator Reynolds’ lawyer, Martin Bennett, said it was clear that some of what Ms Higgins alleged when seeking compensation from the government was not true.

“The assurances (offered by Ms. Higgins) were false and she promised the Commonwealth they were true,” Bennett said.

Senator Reynolds confirmed she had referred the payment decision to the national anti-corruption watchdog but had not received a response.

The compensation received by Ms. Higgins was reportedly paid to a trust, which may protect it from being used to pay damages or costs to Senator Reynolds should the senator win her defamation lawsuit.

Bennett indicated the matter would be addressed in a separate action on Thursday.

‘I’ve been demonized’: Reynolds

Senator Reynolds said she had endured “intense public scrutiny, smearing, vile trolling” and had “been demonized as the villain in a political cover-up story that I always knew was false.”

But she said Judge Lee’s findings had vindicated the actions of her and her chief of staff, Fiona Brown.

“His Honorable Judge Lee’s decision has finally set the record straight regarding Ms. Brown’s and my conduct and the demonstrably false narrative that has dominated headlines and ruined lives and careers,” he said in a statement at the time. .

“To say I am satisfied with the findings in relation to Ms Brown, myself and the cover-up that never took place would be an understatement.”

Attempts to stop the trial

Tuesday’s mediation is the second time Senator Reynolds, Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz have attempted to abort what is expected to be a costly and grueling defamation trial.

Outside court, Senator Reynolds said avoiding a trial seemed unlikely.

“Unfortunately, it looks like at this point we’re still headed to a trial in July,” he said.

In March, Judge Marcus Solomon made orders for the parties to meet face to face, resulting in Higgins and Sharaz flying to Perth from France, where they now live, to meet Senator Reynolds.

But despite nine hours of closed-door discussions, no resolution was reached.

A group of people leave the court building, including Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz.

Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz were not required to attend the mediation hearing in person.(ABC News: Mitch Edgar)

Sharaz has since indicated that he wants to end the fight with Senator Reynolds and reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, the court heard that Ms Higgins’ mental health is so poor that her lawyers at one point were unable to obtain instructions to prepare for trial.

Senator Reynolds attended the mediation in person on Tuesday, while Sharaz was represented by his lawyer, Jason MacLaurin SC, who declined to comment as he left court.

Higgins and Sharaz attended the mediation, which was held behind closed doors, via video conference.

Charging

Aware , updated