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Bruce Lehrmann committed to stand trial on two rapeseed counts

Bruce Lehrmann committed to stand trial on two rapeseed counts

Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann has been committed to stand trial on two rape charges following two days of hearings into the reliability of the alleged victim’s evidence.

The second day of a committal hearing for Lehrmann’s charges, in which he allegedly raped a woman twice in the early hours of October 10, 2021, was held at Toowoomba Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Defence barrister Andrew Hoare had argued Lehrmann should not face trial on the charges because the alleged victim was too intoxicated to remember giving consent.

Bruce Lehrmann (right) leaves the Magistrates Court in Toowoomba, Queensland, June 17, 2024. Mr Lehrmann is charged with two counts of rape. (Dan Peled)

“The test that needs to be satisfied is a low one in this case. It is said the threshold is not met in both of these (charges),” Mr Hoare said.

Crown prosecutor Nicole Friedewald said there was a prima facie case to answer and any questions about the reliability of the alleged victim’s evidence should be considered by a jury.

After adjourning for a few minutes, Magistrate Mark Howden returned with a decision that a reasonable jury, properly instructed, could potentially find the allegations proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Mr Howden told Lehrmann, who attended remotely via telephone, that he would stand trial on two counts of rape before the Toowoomba District Court at a date to be set by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“Not as this time, thank you, Your Honour,” Lehrmann said when asked if he wanted to say anything or enter a plea.

Lehrmann’s bail was continued.

Defence lawyers mounted a weeks-long legal effort to maintain Lehrmann’s anonymity after Queensland changed its laws in October 2023 to no longer ban the publication of the names of people charged with certain sex offences prior to facing trial.

Bruce Lehrmann leaves the Magistrates Court in Toowoomba, Queensland, June 17, 2024. His bail has been continued. (Dan Peled)

Lehrmann was able to be identified after being denied an ongoing non-publication of his name by the Queensland Supreme Court.

He was the subject of national media attention after being charged with the rape of Brittany Higgins in the office of then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds at Parliament House in March 2019, while both were employed by the senator.

Lehrmann denied the allegations and the case ended in a mistrial, with prosecutors withdrawing the charge and declining to proceed with a new trial out of concern for Ms Higgins’ mental health.

In November 2023, Lehrmann launched defamation proceedings against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over claims The Project programme had identified him as the person who raped Ms Higgins in Parliament House in 2019.

Justice Michael Lee in April 2024 found to the civil standard that Lehrmann did, on the balance of probabilities, rape Ms Higgins and dismissed his lawsuit.

Lehrmann filed an appeal in May and was later ordered to pay $2 million in costs over his failed defamation case.

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