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On 27 June 2024, legal representatives for Bruce Lehrmann, Lisa Wilkinson and Network 10 appeared before Justice Michael Lee in the Federal Court to resolve five outstanding matters stemming from Lehmann’s failed defamation case against the network and its former journalist. Justice Lee had previously found on the balance of probabilities, Lehmann had raped fellow Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins at Parliament House. Lehrmann has lodged a notice of appeal against the judgment.

Counsel for Network Ten, which had broadcast the allegations about Lehrmann in a story by Wilkinson on The Project, made submissions in relation to the lump sum costs order sought against Lehrmann, putting the figure at $2 million. The network was originally seeking over $3 million in costs but certain discounts were then applied. His Honour considered the overarching purpose and the need to finalise the matter. Justice Lee indicated he was “happy to deal with this in a quick and dirty way”.

Lehrmann’s lawyer Paul Svilans queried whether certain costs were duplicated. He cited the example of an email sent to multiple lawyers working on the matter and asked how that was charged. He also questioned the fees of Ten’s barrister Dr Matthew Collins KC.

His Honour noted that when it came to the proportion of costs claimed, it is the standard practice in most firms, for senior lawyers to assign mundane tasks to less senior staff. Justice Lee said the division of work by Thomson Geer (Ten’s law firm) has been done appropriately by solicitors at different levels and there has been no duplication of perusal time. In relation to Collins’ costs, his Honour observed that there is significant disparity between fees at the commercial bar and the defamation bar. The daily rate of Collins is at the top of the range of fees charged by members of the defamation bar, but the judge said “given his seniority and experience in the area, this is to be expected.”

Justice Lee said that a significant amount of money claimed relates to disbursements in the form of counsel fees. “The applicant is a man of modest means. It is not suggested that there is a real likelihood he will be in a position to pay for a substantial cost order,” he said.

His Honour entered judgment in the amount of $2 million in favour of Network Ten against Bruce Lehrmann. However, he added this does not resolve the liability of Bruce Lehrmann to Lisa Wilkinson as to costs.