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On Sunday, 19 June 2022, Lisa Wilkinson gave a speech about former Parliamentary staffer Brittany Higgins at The Logie Awards.
At that speech, Wilkinson suggested Higgins was a political problem for the government at the time, and praised and thanked Higgins effusively.
The issue was that Higgins was being praised for raising allegations of rape against Bruce Lehrmann, the man who is standing trial in relation to those same allegations in the ACT Supreme Court.
Furthermore, Wilkinson will be a witness at that trial.
Subsequent commentary, including remarks made on the popular morning radio program, “Jonesy and Amanda” also assumed Lehrmann’s guilt.
Compounding things, days before the Logie awards, Ms Wilkinson participated in a conference with the Director of Public Prosecutions and those appearing with him and was warned that her speech may cause the trial to be further delayed.
McCallum CJ was scathing about the effect of the speech and recent commentary on the case:
“What can be known is that, somewhere in this debate, the distinction between an untested allegation and the fact of guilt has been lost. The Crown accepted that the Logie awards acceptance speech was unfortunate for that reason. He also accepted that Ms Wilkinson’s status as a respected journalist is such as to lend credence to the representation of the complainant as a woman of courage whose story must be believed.
The prejudice of such representations so widely reported so close to the date of empanelment of the jury cannot be overstated. The trial of the allegation against the accused has occurred, not in the constitutionally established forum in which it must, as a matter of law, but in the media. The law of contempt, which has as its object the protection of the integrity of the court but which, incidentally, operates to protect freedom of speech and freedom of the press, has proved ineffective in this case. The public at large has been given to believe that guilt is established. The importance of the rule of law has been set at nil…
The irony in all of this is that the important debate as to whether there are shortcomings in the way in which the courts are able to deliver justice in sexual assault cases, to complainants and accused persons alike, has evolved into a form of discussion which, at this moment in time, is the single biggest impediment to achieving just that.
The delay of the present trial will not serve the interests of anyone. Contrary to popular assumption, it does not serve the interests of the accused, for whom the prospect of conviction and sentence must weigh heavily as an immobilising force in his life. He has said through his lawyer in the present application that he has no interest in delaying the trial but he wants it to be a fair trial, and I accept that that is the case.”McCallum CJ
As a result, the trial date of 27 June was vacated.