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Higgins rape trial delayed, Lisa's Logies speech 'prejudicial'

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The trial of the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins will be delayed after his lawyers successfully pushed to postpone proceedings following Lisa Wilkinson’s Logies speech.

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Bruce Lehrmann, charged with sexual intercourse without consent, has pleaded not guilty to assaulting Higgins at Parliament House in Canberra.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum told the ACT Supreme Court that recent media publicity had prejudged Lehrmann’s right to a fair trial.

“The case has accordingly attracted a level of attention in the media … that while not unprecedented is certainly extreme,” the chief justice said on Tuesday.

“Extensive media reporting of alleged criminal conduct is not mischievous in itself.

“What is a potential mischief is media reporting of such issues in such a way … it impacts the criminal case.”

McCallum said while jurors could be given directions to mitigate prejudice, this case was different with Wilkinson being a key witness.

No date has been set for the trial, but McCallum says she wants the trial to be held this year, with an October listing likely providing enough time for publicity to dissipate.

Lehrmann’s barrister Steve Whybrow launched the fresh stay application following Wilkinson’s Logies speech on Sunday night – where she thanked Higgins for sharing her story – saying the statements could prejudice the trial.

Whybrow said a temporary stay was the only recourse to allow for a fair trial so “adverse publicity can dissipate”.

“It’s untenable in my submission for a trial to be held under these circumstances at this time,” he told the court.

The Crown opposed the temporary stay, arguing the application did not outline a significant enough risk to the jury that couldn’t be overcome by orders made by the judge.

“The test most apt … is a real and substantial risk that despite endeavours by the trial judge there will be members of the jury that would have prejudged guilt perhaps unaware and that cannot be remedied,” Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold told the court.

“We accept there is a significant change but the application limited to what it is limited to does not give rise to a temporary stay.”

An initial stay application was dismissed by McCallum in April, when she said she wasn’t persuaded directions given to the jury couldn’t alleviate concerns of prejudice against Lehrmann.

Drumgold argued the new application constituted “a re-agitation of that order”.

The case was initially due to begin on June 6 but was delayed until June 27 after Lehrmann’s barrister pulled out days before the trial.

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