Bruce Lehrmann has been granted an extension on the usual 12-month time limit for defamation claims. Justice Michael Lee has made the decision to allow Lehrmann to proceed with his defamation case against Network Ten and News Corp.
Reasons for the defamation time extension
Lee noted that it was reasonable for Lehrmann to defer bringing the case for a number of reasons. This included receiving legal advice in February 2021 to delay and facing the prospect of criminal proceedings, which would have required him to delay any civil case.
Lehrmann launched defamation action in March against:
- News Corp’s News Life Media,
- Network 10,
- and journalists Samantha Maiden and Lisa Wilkinson.
The claims relate to their coverage in 2021 of Brittany Higgins’ allegations that she was raped at Parliament House in March 2019.
At the time, Lehrmann name was not in the reports but claims nevertheless his identity came to light by the media companies.
The Guardian also reports that Lehrmann has also filed defamation proceedings against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). This lawsuit is over the broadcast of an address to the National Press Club by Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame.
Legal Battle Over Deadline
The media companies took the matter to the Federal Court. There, they argued that the lawsuits should be thrown out of court as they were lodged after the deadline.
Defamation proceedings must be filed within a year of the publication of the contested material, but Lehrmann lodged the action after two years. The media companies argued that the delay was unlawful, but Lehrmann’s lawyer Matthew Richardson argued that he could not have reasonably launched proceedings earlier.
Justice Michael Lee ruled in favour, paving the way for the high-profile defamation case against Network Ten and News Corp to proceed.