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Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds, her former staffer Brittany Higgins and Higgins’ partner David Sharaz will spend two days bunkered down in a WA Supreme Court mediation suite in a last-ditch attempt to settle their defamation rows face-to-face.
On Wednesday, Supreme Court justice Marcus Solomon ordered the parties to meet before a judge in Perth alongside their legal teams on May 5 and 6 to stave off the need for a trial. Solomon reinforced his concerns about the human cost of a potential trial.
Liberal senator Linda Reynolds (centre) has taken both Brittany Higgins and her partner, David Sharaz, to court.Credit: Nine
The parties are still mulling the possibility of the two cases being heard together, either concurrently or successively, given the overlap between them.
Former defence minister Reynolds is demanding former press gallery journalist Sharaz pay damages, as well as aggravated damages, over five social media posts, and has requested an injunction preventing the material from surfacing in future.
And in August, Reynolds made good on her threat to sue Higgins for damages over two social media posts in which she accused Reynolds of using the press to harass her and breaching a deed of settlement and release the pair signed which contained a non-disparagement clause.
She has asked for two injunctions preventing Higgins from publishing defamatory material about her and preventing her from further breaches of the deed.
Reynolds’ lawyer Martin Bennett revealed subpoenas had been served on Channel 10 and journalists Lisa Wilkinson and Samantha Maiden which may provide evidence for both cases.
The court has allocated dates for a four-week trial beginning July 24 until September, but Sharaz’s lawyer Jason MacLaurin advised the court his client had not ruled out pushing for the matter to be transferred to the ACT.
In 2021, Higgins alleged she was raped in Reynolds’ parliamentary office by her colleague Bruce Lehrmann.
A criminal trial against Lehrmann, who has maintained his innocence throughout, was aborted last year due to juror misconduct. The charge was dropped, and a retrial was abandoned over fears for Higgins’ mental health.
The trio’s lengthy and complex history has prompted Solomon to urge the parties to resolve their differences behind-closed-doors, highlighting the cost to the parties was not merely financial, but also human.
“My position has been this should be settled outside court, and I’ve not shifted one iota from that view,” he told the court on Wednesday.
“I’ve previously made remarks about the human cost of this litigation, and they have compounded after having read the pleadings.”
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