Last minute twist in Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case against Network Ten, Lisa Wilkinson

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A bid to call fresh evidence about Bruce Lehrmann in his high stakes defamation case against Network Ten will be heard in an urgent hearing late on Tuesday afternoon.

Federal Court Justice Michael Lee was due to hand down his decision in the case against Ten and The Project host Lisa Wilkinson on Thursday.

But the latest twist could delay his judgment, should Justice Lee decide to reopen the case on the basis of the new evidence.

On Easter Sunday, Network Ten applied for leave to reopen its defence in light of “fresh evidence,” according to the interlocutory application filed with the court.

The nature of the fresh evidence has not been confirmed, but the application follows a series of reports surrounding the Seven Network’s exclusive interview with Mr Lehrmann for its Spotlight program.

News.com.au broke the story on March 21 that “two Thai masseuses were booked – one for Mr Lehrmann and another for a Seven employee” in the early hours of November 26, 2022.

It prompted Mr Lehrmann to issue a statement, describing the allegation as “an untrue and bizarre story from a disgruntled ex-Network Seven producer”.

A former producer on Spotlight, Taylor Auerbach, threatened to sue Mr Lehrmann over the statement – sending a concerns notice, the first step in initiating defamation proceedings, on Wednesday.

In the notice, Mr Auerbach’s solicitor said Mr Lehrmann’s statement had conveyed a defamatory imputation that “Taylor Auerbach lied to the press about Bruce Lehrmann being bought a massage by a Seven Network employee”.

On Monday, News.com.au reported a sworn affidavit prepared by Mr Auerbach that alleges Mr Lehrmann was the source of the leaks of Brittany Higgins’ private texts to the program would be presented to the court.

Mr Lehrmann has previously denied providing documents or photographs to the program.

The Federal Court previously heard Seven agreed to cover Mr Lehrmann’s rent for a year as part of the deal.

Mr Lehrmann is suing Ten and Wilkinson for defamation over an interview with Ms Higgins which aired on The Project in February 2021.

During the broadcast, Ms Higgins alleged she was sexually assaulted by her former colleague inside Senator Linda Reynolds’ office in Parliament House after a night out drinking in the early hours of March 23, 2019.

Mr Lehrmann has maintained he did not have sexual intercourse with Ms Higgins after they travelled together back to Parliament House.

He claims he was defamed by the broadcast, despite it not naming him.

Mr Lehrmann stood trial in the ACT Supreme Court after pleading not guilty to sexually assaulting Ms Higgins, but the trial was aborted due to juror misconduct.

The charges were subsequently dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions due to concerns about Ms Higgins’ mental health before Mr Lehrmann sued Network 10 and Ms Wilkinson in the Federal Court.

Justice Lee, who presided over the bruising five-week trial late last year, will decide whether to reopen the case at 5pm.

If he throws it out, he could still hand down his final judgment on Thursday at 10.15am.