Should Lehrmann appeal? The new dispute

Andrew L. Urban.

What’s worse than the stigma of being labelled a rapist? Being unable to wipe the label clean. Why would anyone not try, if they claimed innocence? For Lehrmann, the label is a life sentence, even though it was applied by a civil, not criminal, court. Some suggest he shouldn’t appeal. They’re wrong.

Bruce Lehrmann is scurrying around Eastern Australia, trying to avoid being recognised, with nowhere to live, nowhere to work. And broke. Branded a rapist by Justice Lee in the Federal Court, his future life will always look like this – unless he can mount a successful appeal. The label doesn’t make him a criminal, since it was a judgement decided on the balance of probabilities in a civil court, not beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal court. But it does make him an outcast. Still, some are urging him not to seek an appeal.

One is The Australian’s Stephen Rice, who covered the defamation trial with superb journalism, sometimes in tandem with columnist and lawyer Janet Albrechtsen. In the Weekend Australian (May 4, 2024) Rice has now written an opinion piece saying both Lehrmann and Higgins should just accept Lee’s verdict: Higgins was raped and there had been no attempt by anyone to cover it up.

“Lehrmann is now talking about an appeal. Or to use Lee’s parlance, going back – yet again – for his hat. He should leave the loathsome thing where he left it, in the lion’s den. Lee made a sound case that Lehrmann was “hell-bent” on having sex with Higgins and didn’t care one way or the other whether, in her drunk state, she understood or agreed.”

(Busy metaphor, that, the lions’ den, (plural, as Lee has it in his  judgement). It was first used in this context by Thomson Geer lawyer Justin Quill, as he told Patricia Kavelas on ABC radio: “In 2022 on Media Watch I said … ‘Lehrmann bringing this case would be a man going back into the lion’s den to retrieve his hat’. [And] I said it again in 2023.” The metaphor has a longer history, but that’s not relevant here.)

For a start, not everyone agrees with Lee on that crucial point – and that includes lawyers. In short, there is considerable and reasonable doubt surrounding Lee’s verdict. That unease cannot be in dispute.

Price seems to suggest that “his woeful performance in the witness box and extracurricular activities out of it,” should disqualify Lehrmann from further legal action.

Price goes on to suggest that “Lehrmann’s chances of a successful appeal are minimal – even if he can find someone wealthy and careless enough to fund it.” Minimal or not, that’s up to the appeal system, which is there to examine convictions and if necessary correct wrongful convictions. And sometimes, convictions that are accepted as safe by the public turn out to be anything but safe. Innocent people are wronged – and men convicted of sexual crimes are in particular danger of such wrongful convictions, as we have found over the past decade of publishing this report.

Consider the consequences of leaving such a wrongful conviction [albeit not in a criminal sense] undisturbed if the applicant is innocent. Not only does the injustice damn the accused forever, it leaves the stain of injustice on the system itself and by extension on society. And if the appeal fails, the applicant has lost no further loss of status in society, no further lessening of access to the normal means of living.

This case emphasises the need for a Criminal Cases Review Commission (and should be established in all Australian jurisdictions); if there were one in NSW, Lehrmann could apply to have his case assessed. If the CCRC found that the conviction was not safe, it would refer the case to the appeal court. That would be a much better way to handle appeals…

DISCLOSURE: Andrew L. Urban has been invited to work with Bruce Lehrmann on his book about his experience, in due course. So far, Lehrmann has not confided in Urban regarding these matters.


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12 Responses to Should Lehrmann appeal? The new dispute

  1. Heinrich says:

    Many contributors seem to think that innocent citizens get a common sense outcome from appeals court judges .
    The Justice Gods must be crazy – mad as cut snakes. Justice from appeals courts is only for the Hot Shots with powerful friends . Not for the likes of Bruce Lehrmann with his enemas in the channel 10 media court of no appeal. Lindy Chamberlain was released from prison for only one reason- The ordinary common old citizens were starting to realize and publically comment that she was done over by a pack of dirty rotten swine ! When the peasants get restless – judges chicken out !

  2. Heinrich says:

    Would a criminal case review even look at a load of bollocks where there has been no actual conviction ? A Queensland Style stacked jury would have achieved the desired verdict . Transport Bruce Lehrmann to South Australia in a wire cage ute. Cook him 47°c to death in an
    Western Australian innocent Aboriginal elder transport van. (Mr Ward) 40 years of refused appeals will do the trick (DerekBromley). Appeals to any of those lunatic geniuses would be a waste of precious jurisdictional resources. (not to mention the judges’ cordon bleu tucker time) As the good judge said – going back looking for justice was a silly thing to do ! Spot on ! If you annoy them enough-youll get done like a David Eastman. 7 million for 19 years.of wrongful conviction prison time . A million per year should be set in stone .Myself – I wouldn’t do 40 years for 40 million. If Bruce Lehrmann won an appeal there would be some very angry media persons wandering the land.
    Did the prison time myself . Was it worth it ? Bloody Oath! Ya going to be dead a long time and you might (will) meet some of them judge geezers in hell.

  3. Heinrich says:

    Bruce Lehrmann could appeal to the newly established panel of 20 sceptical builders labourers, if we had such a thing. Steer clear of the proven halfwitted tricky judges. They’ll do you over like a Lindy Chamberlain or a Sue Neil-Fraser! Hang you by the neck like poor innocent Ray Bailey . Not Proven Verdict most likely from decent thinking persons, but who knows what crap would come from a judge gang ? It has long been obvious to many that the legal profession is beyond reform . The corruption riddled process needs a total rethink . Many Appeals Court Judgements are bordering on the lunatic. The faith in fraudulent flexible forensics is just one example of that lunacy. The proud Australian legal fraternity has used totally dishonest forensics to manipulate a jury into the conviction of, for example, an innocent young mother whose baby was eaten by a DOG. Just think about that for a moment ! That moronic bastard act is genuinely infuriating and unforgivable. However Queensland Police heroes hanging Ray Bailey in South Australia was worse . An almost identical piece of law school barstardary was used on poor Sue Neil-Fraser. Then, the icing on the cake – the refused appeals from another group of law degree experts and abysmal thinkers.
    What the hell is wrong with them ? WCR readers don’t need reminding of the well examined mongrel act done on Sue Neil-Fraser and her jury . Then followed that up with further examples of Tasmanian appeals court pompous halfwitted gits buffoonery. Why would anyone think that a Bruce Lehrmann appeal would deliver a not proven or common sense outcome ?

  4. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich says:

    Appeal because he was never found guilty in a criminal court, so, why should his life be ruined because of one man’s opinion ?

  5. John says:

    A national disgrace ,beginning with a lack
    of security in parliament house ,so many
    innocent people , liar liar pants on fire.
    Bart Simpson is impressed.
    Some believe Netanyahu is innocent.
    A fiasco.

  6. Ann says:

    An interesting 2018 Research Paper Differential or Deferential to Media? The
    Effect of Prejudicial Publicity on Judge or
    “A judgment is, of course, also far more susceptible to appellate scrutiny than a jury verdict. However, notwithstanding the benefits of having the reasoning process set out clearly, it is by no means certain that any prejudice caused by publicity will be evident on the face of a judgment. Given the need in a criminal appeal to demonstrate a House v The King127 error in the reasoning of the lower court, the availability of written reasons may not be a particularly effective safeguard against the unconscious impact of prejudicial publicity. The impact of prejudicial publicity may not be overt, but rather may have covertly coloured the judge’s view of the rest of the evidence.”

  7. Pv says:

    No ! Not Shakespeare ? It was used in a courtroom drama in the movie Philadelphia by Tom Hanks and asked of Denzel Washington . Perhaps it was what Shakespeare should have asked. ? It’s like the phrase ‘ I may not agree with what you have to say , but I will defend to the death , your right to say it. ‘ Evelyn Beatrice Hall said it even though it was often attributed to Voltaire. Our past is full of wonderful people who had the capacity to say wonderful and insightful things. Where have they all gone. Now we get Justice Lee?? In trying to reunite the country Abraham Lincoln reminded all Americans of the value of the reason behind the establishment of the country .
    Four score and seven years ago , our fathers brought forth upon this continent , a new nation . Conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Where are such men today. ??

  8. Pv says:

    Take away the stupid conclusion of Justice Lee . ! ! ! Appeal !
    My understanding was that according to Lee , Lehrmann was defamed if rape could not be proven. Justice Lee should throw his crystal ball in the rubbish where it belongs wrapped in his judge’s gown which clearly he has defamed and is therefore undeserved .
    BS is BS no matter who delivers it. Sick and tired of a bunch of lawyers, police and inept judges assisting each other in the ruination of many innocent people and their families. Just ask ME !!!! “Better a hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man in jail “.
    Great standard to live by , I say. Who said “ what do you call a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean ?” ANSWER … A Good start ! William Shakespeare ?? Pv

    • Heinrich says:

      Trying to recall the Internationally famous QC who suggested- relative to dubious proceedings. ” Biggest Liar wins”. There has to some cases where flexible forensics are not available or even relevant . Not even a suitable witness to perjure themselves. A verbal or tortured confession not appropriate. A “Not Proven”, verdict might be satisfactory. We are not calling anyone a liar – it has to be accepted -we just don’t bloody know ! To risky to say otherwise. As to the cost of an appeal. Jusice is often available only to the wealthy or those with the “mates” in the right high places. Unlikely that Lee will ever admit his mistake . Any more than the pompous gits would appologise to Michael Chamberlain or Ray Bailey. This is a very good example of judge only injustice . A manipulated jury ain’t no good either. Seems bloody hopeless then ? No, maybe not. A large selection of WCR contributor/ readers know dam well that Sue Neil-Fraser is not/was not guilty ! Likewise, there are very very serious doubts about Bruce Lehrmanns guilt beyond the judge fantasy fiasco.

  9. Jess says:

    Definitely in dire need of a criminal case review committee. The criminal system in Australia is far from well functioning, even further from any sort of “Justice” being conducted……

  10. Jack says:

    Of course he should appeal. The Australian judiciary is renowned for its stupidity and Lee seemed intent on upholding this rather dubious distinction.

  11. Linda says:

    I believe he should appeal, we definately need a criminal case review commission. So many people are being locked up and lives ruined etc from the police legal system , media It is a disgrace.

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