In June, Bruce Lehrmann stated on Channel Seven’s main program, Spotlight, that it was time to start some fires during his two-part “bombshell” interviews.
“All information must be made public for people to accurately assess its content.”
On Thursday, the fire that Lehrmann started during prime time inside the supreme court of Queensland would ultimately have consequences for him.
The ex-employee of the Liberal party appeared on television to share his side of the story about what happened on March 23, 2019 when he was accused of sexually assaulting his colleague, Brittany Higgins. Lehrmann consistently denied the allegations made by Higgins and the charges were dismissed in December 2022 after a mistrial was declared due to misconduct by a juror.
After six months, Lehrmann publicly stated that full transparency is necessary. Meanwhile, his legal team was closely monitoring the progress of new legislation in Queensland’s parliament.
In September, the new laws were finally passed, bringing Queensland in line with other states and territories. These laws now allow for the naming of accused sex offenders after they have been charged.
Lehrmann could potentially be identified as the individual accused of sexually assaulting another woman in Toowoomba in October 2021, described as a prominent figure.
Prior to the implementation of the new legislation, Lehrmann’s legal counsel had already started inquiring about a potential exemption for their client.
During the hearing for their request to keep his name private, the main reasoning put forth was that publicly revealing Lehrmann’s identity would increase the likelihood of him causing harm to himself, possibly even leading to suicide.
The argument presented by the defendant was based on a report from Dr. James Brown, a clinical psychologist. Dr. Brown diagnosed Lehrmann with adjustment disorder with depressed mood, which has been ongoing since February 2021 when Higgins made accusations of sexual assault.
Brown stated that Lehrmann was still at risk due to the stress he was experiencing, and revealing his identity in this situation could have serious consequences.
However, the legal representatives who opposed the gag order on behalf of multiple media organizations, such as Guardian Australia, were able to effectively argue that the portrayal of Lehrmann by the defense was inconsistent with his actions of starting fires across the country.
Rob Anderson informed a judge in Toowoomba about the paradox of a man who lacked discretion, yet still chose to speak to the press against his attorneys’ counsel when it benefited him, but then tried to silence the court when it didn’t.
Anderson noted that the individual desires to be heard in all places except for this particular location.
Judge Clare Kelly concurred and rejected the request for a non-publication order on October 13th. Likewise, on Thursday, Judge Peter Applegarth dismissed a judicial review brought forth by Lehrmann’s legal team in a final effort to maintain their client’s anonymity.
Kelly had ruled Lehrmann’s appearances in media interviews with Seven and Sky News in June and August was “inconsistent with the contention that the media pursuit has been relentless”.
‘He was in good enough health to interact with the press.’
Applegarth noted that it was a significant observation. Instead of reducing his presence in the public eye and avoiding the media, [Lehrmann] made multiple appearances on national TV and discussed the events that had initially triggered his mental illness in 2021.
He appeared to be feeling well enough to interact with parts of the national media and handle any additional coverage he received from the media outlets he appeared on, as well as other media that reported on his prominent appearances.
Brown’s report to the court had argued that the interviews “should not be misconstrued as demonstrating his full recovery, or that his mental health is of no real concern”.
On the other hand, Bruce has shown great effort and strength by coming forward to share his story and pursue legal action. These actions have taken a toll on him emotionally, often resulting in severe depression during stressful moments.
However, Applegarth determined that the defense did not present any proof to clarify “the situation in which the applicant appeared in television interviews from June to August 2023.”
The judge determined that the applicant did not provide proof of having precarious mental health during the time of the interviews.
Maybe his mention of starting fires was just a way to show off, or perhaps he experienced a sudden emotional decline after the interviews.
Applegarth stated that none of those statements were made.
Without “such an explanation”, it was only logical to give less consideration to the Brown report, according to his ruling, as he rejected Lehrmann’s request.
The judge stated that a pessimistic person may believe that Channel 7 must have paid the individual or their legal representatives a significant amount of money for the impact it had on their application, if not for any other reason.
The money in question could potentially be in jeopardy, as the media corporations involved in the legal battle to reveal Lehrmann’s identity (excluding Seven) are seeking reimbursement for legal expenses.