News Corp agreed to pay Bruce Lehrmann $295,000 to settle defamation claim, court documents reveal

<span>Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP</span>
Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

News Corp agreed to pay Bruce Lehrmann $295,000 to drop a defamation suit he brought against a article in which Brittany Higgins alleged she had been raped by a Liberal staffer in Parliament House, according to documents filed in the federal court.

The News Corp financial settlement brings to $445,000 the total amount Lehrmann has received towards his legal costs after the ABC agreed to pay $150,000 in an out-of-court settlement last month.

The 2021 article by Samantha Maiden, headlined “Young Staffer Brittany Higgins says she was raped at Parliament House”, was the first time the allegations had been aired in the media but did not name Lehrmann.

The deed of settlement and release, published by the federal court on Wednesday night after News Corp lost an 11th hour bid to keep the terms confidential, said the publisher of agreed to add an editor’s note to the article saying a criminal charge against Lehrmann was dropped.

“[News Corp] will pay to Mr Lehrmann an amount of $295,000 (including GST) as a contribution towards his legal costs,” the deed signed in May said.

The money was to be paid to Lehrmann’s solicitor’s trust account.

According to the deed of settlement and release between Lehrmann and the ABC, the ABC agreed to remove a Facebook video of the National Press Club (NPC) speech given by Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame on 9 February 2022.

The deed also specifies the ABC agrees not to reinstate the YouTube video of the same event.

Related: Brittany Higgins volunteered to be defamation trial witness as she ‘would not let rapist become a millionaire’, court hears

Lehrmann was not named in the press club address, but he alleged he was readily identifiable.

The ABC deed was signed on 21 November, the day before the defamation trial started last month.

In a statement on 22 November, the ABC described the settlement as mutual.

“The proceedings have settled on mutually acceptable, confidential terms, without admission of liability,” the statement said.

The $150,000 included $7,000 to be paid to solicitors acting for ABC broadcaster Laura Tingle, who hosted the event and is the NPC president, to cover the costs incurred by Lehrmann relating to Tingle’s compliance with a subpoena to produce documents in the case.

The remaining $143,000 was paid to Lehrmann’s solicitor’s trust account as a contribution towards his legal costs.

Related: Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann were ‘touchy’ and ‘kissing’ in bar on night of alleged rape, defamation trial hears – as it happened

Lehrmann was suing the ABC on the basis the broadcast was defamatory.

Lehrmann had accused the ABC of acting maliciously by broadcasting Higgins’ address, saying in court documents it was “wilfully blind” to the risk of her defaming him or making prejudicial comments close to his criminal trial which began llater in 2022.

Lehrmann alleged the “hurt and harm” he suffered from the broadcasts was aggravated by the ABC’s decision to show the joint address live.

He said the ABC could have utilised a delay system so that “any potentially defamatory statements of and concerning the applicant could be removed prior to publication”.

“The respondent was recklessly indifferent to the truth or falsity of the imputation carried by the matters complained of in publishing live the assertions and allegations,” his claim alleged.

In December prosecutors dropped charges against Lehrmann for the alleged rape of Higgins, saying a retrial would pose an “unacceptable risk” to her health.