July 19, 2024

A trial date has been set for Liberal senator Linda Reynolds and her former political staffer Brittany Higgins’ high-profile defamation battle.

The former defence minister, who plans to retire from politics at the next election, is suing Higgins over a series of social media posts she says have damaged her reputation.

Mediation has failed to resolve the case, which returned to the WA Supreme Court for a directions hearing on Wednesday.

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A trial date of August 2 was agreed on, with the matter set down for four to five weeks to accommodate more than 20 witnesses and parliamentary sitting dates.

Former prime minister Scott Morrison could be called as a witness, the senator’s lawyer has previously said, along with other members of the federal Liberal Party, including Senators Michaelia Cash and Wendy Askew.

Although a trial date has been fixed, the parties could choose to attempt mediation again to resolve the case.

Senator Reynolds last week said she was determined to get justice over the alleged defamation and that Higgins’ claims had “taken a huge toll on my mental and my physical health”.

She said it was essential that all parties accept the findings of Federal Court Justice Michael Lee regarding Bruce Lehrmann “so that the many people who have been damaged by this whole saga can get justice and to get peace”.

She also said it was possible that a settlement could still be reached and called for Higgins to admit she was wrong and apologise.

READ MORE: Higgins releases first statement since Lehrmann defamation ruling

Justice Lee in April delivered his judgment in Lehrmann’s defamation case against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson.

He found on the balance of probabilities Lehrmann did rape Higgins, but the allegation of a political cover-up “was objectively short on facts but long on speculation”.

Lehrmann is appealing against the Federal Court judgment.

Senator Reynolds was also pursuing Sharaz, for defamation but he announced in April he would no longer fight the case and consented to judgment.

The former minister claimed he had also defamed her in a series of social media posts.

Sharaz was ordered to delete three tweets, a Facebook post and an Instagram story from 2022 and 2023.

The damages Sharaz will have to pay following his admission will be decided after Higgins’ defamation trial.

Lehrmann denies the sexual assault allegation. His criminal trial was aborted because of juror misconduct and Higgins’ mental health was cited as the reason for no retrial.

Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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