Journalist Lisa Wilkinson and others in the media have been given until the close of business tomorrow to agree not to make further public comments about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins at Parliament House in 2019.
- A judge has urged a number of journalists not to make further public comments on the upcoming trial of Bruce Lehrmann
- Mr Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to raping Brittany Higgins in an office in Parliament House in 2019
- ACT Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said a three-month delay on the trial should be enough time for recent publicity of the case to fade in the jurors’ minds
Bruce Lehrmann, who has pleaded not guilty to the alleged crime, was to have gone on trial next week.
But the ACT’s Chief Justice Lucy McCallum deferred that plan after a storm of publicity in the wake of a speech by Wilkinson at the Logie Awards.
Wilkinson won an award for an interview with Ms Higgins.
Chief Justice McCallum said in the commentary that followed, the right of the presumption of innocence had been overlooked.
Today, the court heard Wilkinson and her employer, Network 10 and others had indicated they were now prepared to offer written undertakings not to make further public comments.
The ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, told the court as long as the undertakings were received he would not seek an injunction against Wilkinson and the others involved.
He said the undertakings would acknowledge the issues in the trial were subjudice and that any breach would be a contempt of court.
Chief Justice McCallum also said even wider discussions about the issues raised by the allegation could be problematic.
She added it would be very difficult to have that discussion without suggesting the allegation was true.
“I think it would be a masterpiece of rhetoric and subtlety to avoid breaking the rules,” Chief Justice McCallum said.
Judge allows three-month delay, rejects request for six-week trial
Chief Justice McCallum said the three months until the trial should allow the issue to fade in the minds of jurors.
But Mr Lehrmann’s lawyer, Stephen Whybrow, expressed concern, saying he would like a trial date next year.
“The bushfire is still burning, in effect,” he told the court.
But Justice McCallum refused, saying it was the proximity of the media attention so close to the trial that led to it being postponed.
She also rejected Mr Whybrow’s application to set aside six weeks for the trial.
“I don’t see how a single incident with a single complainant could take that time,” she told the court.
The court was also told there were about five books currently being written about the case, by authors including journalists Samantha Maiden, Nikki Savva and Peter Van Onselen.
The court heard they would also be contacted about restrictions until the trial is over.
The new trial date is set for October 4.
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