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Bruce Lehrmann has been ordered to pay Network Ten’s defence costs in his failed defamation case. Justice Michael Lee handed down his judgement on Friday for a case he said had “no real winners”.

Justice Lee ruled that Lehrmann abused the court’s processes and pursued a case based on a knowingly false premise which “occasioned much delay, inefficiency, and increased cost”.

He condemned Lehrmann’s misconduct in defending two legal proceedings and a criminal charge, stating that even if he hadnot found that Lehrmann had raped Britany Higgins, he would have declined to award costs in Lehrmann’s favour.

“Mr Lehrmann defended the criminal charge on a false basis, lied to police, and then allowed that lie to go uncorrected before the jury. He wrongly instructed his senior counsel to cross-examine a complainant of sexual assault, in two legal proceedings, including, relevantly for present purposes, this case, on a knowingly false premise,” Justice Lee said.

Justice Lee awarded costs to Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson on an indemnity basis for most of the trial, except where the qualified privilege defence failed. Network Ten will cover the bulk of Wilkinson’s bill, an amount to be determined later this month via an independently appointed referee.

The ruling comes almost a month after Lehrmann lost his defamation case against Channel Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson after the media defendants proved, on the balance of probabilities, that Lehrmann raped his colleague Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019.

Justice Lee was also critical of Ten’s lawyer Justin Quill’s public statements which claimed the decision justified the network’s conduct surrounding the Higgins interview. Quill criticised defamation law as being “divorced from reality”.

Justice Lee described these statements as misleading, defending his running of the trial and his ultimate ruling.

“[T]he examination of the respondents’ conduct was not devoid of, nor divorced from reality; nor did it involve picking apart and dissecting the respondents’ conduct by reference to a standard of perfection,” Justice Lee stated.

“Anyone taking the trouble to read the judgment would conclude I did not consider the evaluative assessment required by the statutory qualified privilege defence to be a close-run thing,”

Justice Lee has requested for cost estimates to be provided by 24 May 2024, with a case management hearing to follow three days later.