Copied documents and financial perks: Lehrmann judgment delayed as new evidence emerges

Bruce Lehrmann - Walkley, Seven

New allegations include that Seven paid for “perks” including Thai massages, several expensive dinners, and a $401.83 round of golf in Tasmania.

Network 10 has won a last-minute bid to reopen former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case against the Network and Lisa Wilkinson, pushing back the judgment originally set down for Thursday.

Taylor Auerbach, a former producer for Seven’s Spotlight program – which Lehrmann provided two interviews for in 2023 – will take to the stand on Thursday and allege that the show was provided with thousands of pages of confidential documents that Lehrmann had in an “e-brief” for his criminal trial, but which were not tendered in court.

Speaking in court on Tuesday, Network 10’s lawyer, Matthew Collins KC, said Auerbach had named Lehrmann as the source of the evidence leak.

This evidence includes approximately 2,300 pages of text messages between Brittany Higgins and her former partner, Ben Dillaway.

Auerbach swore to three affidavits, seen by Mediaweek, over the weekend. In one, Auerbach said a Cellebrite extraction report of texts was “provided to me by the applicant by either WhatsApp or AirDrop.”

A second affidavit describes a dinner between Auerbach, Lehrmann, and Spotlight executive producer, Mark Llewellyn.

“During our meal, Mark said to the applicant ‘Do you have the documents from the criminal proceedings?’. The applicant said ‘Yes I do.’ Mark and I discussed what arrangements would have to be made for the applicant to gain access to Seven’s offices in Martin Place so he could copy his documents,” the affidavit reads.

“I observed that the applicant had in his possession a large lever arch hard back folder containing what I saw to be around 500 pages of documents printed on both sides. I viewed some of the documents that were being copied and could see that they were exhibits from the applicant’s criminal proceedings.”

In the days prior to the Spotlight interview going to air, Auerbach recalls Llewellyn telling him “I’ve just gotten off the phone to lawyers. I’ve decided to wipe all contact that I’ve had with Bruce and documents he gave me. I cannot tell you to do the same but it might be a good idea.’’

Auerbach writes “I followed this direction and immediately proceeded to delete any communication in relation to the applicant I could see on my phone.”

Other fresh allegations from Auerbach surround the Seven Network providing financial incentives to Lehrmann to secure the two Spotlight interviews.

Whilst the company’s decision to pay for Lehrmann’s rent in Sydney had already been widely reported, new allegations include that Seven paid for “perks” including $10,300 on Thai massages, several expensive dinners, and a $401.83 round of golf in Tasmania.

Auerbach also alleges that in January 2023, “Monies paid by the applicant for illicit drugs and prostitutes… at a brothel in Surry Hills were reimbursed to the applicant by Seven.”  

Federal Court Justice Michael Lee told the court on Tuesday that he would reopen the trial because, “this is clearly fresh evidence.”

In December, The Walkley Foundation revoked the finalist status of Seven’s Spotlight interview with Bruce Lehrmann for the 68th Walkley Awards in response to the revelation that the Network had been paying Lehrmann’s rent as part of an exclusivity agreement. The Foundation said at the time that “the entry did not accurately describe the extent of benefits provided to Mr Lehrmann in exchange for interviews, information and exclusive access.”

See Also: Walkley Foundation “revokes finalist status” of Seven’s Spotlight interview with Bruce Lehrmann

A Seven spokesperson said the Network strongly denies the allegations, and highlighted that, “the claims in the affidavits have been presented unchallenged.”

“We strongly reject the false and misleading claims relating to the broadcast of material in the Spotlight program. Seven has never revealed its source or sources and has no intention of doing so.

“Seven notes Mr Lehrmann’s court testimony last year that he was not the source. Furthermore, Seven did not condone or authorise the alleged payments to Mr Lehrmann referred to in the affidavits.

“As has been previously reported, the person involved admitted to the misuse of a Seven corporate card and all unauthorised expenses were immediately reimbursed.”

Lehrmann is currently suing Network 10 and former The Project star Wilkinson for defamation in relation to a February 2021 interview with Brittany Higgins. In the interview, Higgins made the allegation that she had been raped in an office of Parliament House.

Whilst he was not named, Lehrmann claimed that his name was “widely trafficked as the culprit on social media and the internet generally”. His lawyers have echoed that message, saying that it was “notorious in Parliament House and elsewhere that Mr Lehrmann was the person alleged to have assaulted Ms Higgins.”

See Also: ‘Embarrassed and deeply disappointed’: Lisa Wilkinson tells court she was pulled from The Project post-Logies speech

To Top