Brittany Higgins has broken down in tears during cross-examination in the Federal Court, as lawyers for Bruce Lehrmann suggested she had not been raped at Parliament House in 2019.
CONTENT WARNING: This article contains graphic details of sexual assault allegations.
Mr Lehrmann is suing Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for broadcasting an interview with Ms Higgins on The Project, in which she alleged she had been raped.
Today, Ms Higgins continued her testimony as a critical witness for Network Ten as it seeks to prove the truth of its reporting.
Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial was aborted due to juror misconduct and there remain no findings against him.
This afternoon, Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steven Whybrow asked Ms Higgins why, during her first informal meeting with police, she said she had seen a doctor, which was not true.
“The reason you didn’t go to a doctor … was because you hadn’t actually been sexually assaulted the week before,” he put to her.
Ms Higgins disagreed.
“I didn’t have a support system,” she said.
“I had no one around me, I was so scared.”
After further questions, Network Ten barrister Matthew Collins KC said he was “concerned about the welfare of the witness” as Ms Higgins began weeping in the witness box.
The court then adjourned for almost 15 minutes.
Earlier, Ms Higgins became visibly angered by questions from Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyers, describing assertions that the alleged rape did not occur as “insulting”.
Mr Whybrow asked Ms Higgins about differing accounts about how she was found in Senator Linda Reynolds’s office the morning after the alleged rape in 2019.
Ms Higgins has previously said that she believed her dress was around her waist as she was lying on a couch.
But she said she “completely accepted the evidence of the security guard” who discovered her, who said she had no dress on.
Mr Whybrow asked Ms Higgins if her recollections of the time period were “potentially unreliable”.
“In relation to whether the dress was on my body or on the ground, yes. In relation to being physically raped, no,” she said.
“As I was being raped, it wasn’t my primary concern where my dress was.
“I was deeply more concerned about the penis in my vagina that I didn’t want there.”
Lawyers say Brittany Higgins has ‘financial interest’ in maintaining rape allegation
Mr Whybrow also put to Ms Higgins that she had a financial interest in maintaining her allegation that she was raped at Parliament House.
During cross-examination, he asked about the book deal Ms Higgins had signed with publisher Penguin Random House in the months after she went public with her allegations.
Ms Higgins stands to earn $216,000 if the book is published. She has already received more than $108,000 as an advance.
“The marketability of your potentially future memoir is, at least in some substantial part, related to the truth of your allegations that Mr Lehrmann sexually assaulted you,” Mr Whybrow put to Ms Higgins.
“You have a financial interest in the outcome of the proceedings.”
“If I ever actually finish the book, I will donate all $200,000 and whatever to charity,” Ms Higgins replied.
“I don’t care about the money.”
Brittany Higgins accused of changing details of ‘narrative’
Mr Whybrow also suggested to Ms Higgins that she had changed or altered her “narrative” multiple times to account for new information she had received.
Ms Higgins disputed that.
“I accept where I’m wrong and try to apply it in every weird circumstance I end up in to give the most honest answer I can,” she said.
Mr Whybrow challenged her account of a panic attack she had at Parliament House about two weeks after the alleged rape.
She told the court yesterday it was triggered by a lunch in the parliamentary office of Steve Ciobo ahead of his valedictory speech.
Today, Ms Higgins accepted she was “not 100 per cent definitive about the sequence” because the speech had occurred in the morning.
Cross-examination of Ms Higgins continues.