Linda Reynolds fresh legal move on Brittany Higgins $2.4 million payout

Former Defence Minister Linda Reynolds is set to launch fresh legal action targeting Brittany Higgins’ trust fund that protects what remains of her $2.4 million compensation payout.

The Liberal Senator, who has warned Brittany Higgins that she will be “regrettably” forced to proceed to a defamation trial to prove there was never a cover-up of her alleged rape, is set to launch the legal application in Perth on Monday morning.

It follows the Federal Court’s finding, on the balance of probabilities, that Bruce Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins on Linda Reynolds’ office couch in 2019. Mr Lehrmann was recently granted an extension to consider an appeal of the decision.

But Senator Reynolds says her defamation case against her former employee was never about the alleged rape, but comments on social media where Brittany Higgins says she wasn’t supported.

Legal sources have confirmed that Senator Reynolds will seek to discover who is the trustee of the trust fund and whether it could protect her from paying her former boss damages in the defamation case.

Her legal team are seeking to probe claims that following the settlement, Ms Higgins took Mr Sharaz on a holiday to the Maldives, rented a house on the Gold Coast, and then set up a discretionary investment trust in February.

According to an article in the Daily Mail this would “protect her assets from any future lawsuits.”

There is no suggestion this was the purpose of the trust, only that Senator Linda Reynolds

legal team are planning a fresh legal application to challenge that claim.

Senator Reynolds’ legal team wants to learn more about the trust and if indeed it would protect her money in the event that she needed to pay damages in the defamation case.

Senator Reynolds has previously publicly revealed she was seeking French legal advice over whether she can “freeze” Ms Higgins assets.

But despite multiple news stories flagging these options, there have been no legal moves to freeze her assets to date.

It’s not known whether or not the French home that Ms Higgins bought after the settlement is owned privately or is part of the trust.

Senator Reynolds — Ms Higgins’ former boss — is suing both Ms Higgins and her partner David Sharaz for defamation over social media posts on Twitter and Instagram.

Mr Sharaz recently announced he will no longer contest the matter as he can’t afford lawyers and could be forced into bankruptcy.

Senator Reynolds’ lawyers wrote to Leon Zwier in December signalling they plan to ask the Supreme Court of Western Australia for the freeze orders which restrain a party to a case from selling or moving assets while a legal action is still in process.

There is no suggestion that either defendant has done either of those things.

The correspondence follows Ms Higgins’ departure from Australia to start a new life in France.

“If such reports are true, we consider that an application for freezing orders is appropriate,’’ the letter states.

“Please advise as a matter of urgency your client’s intentions in respect of her travel to France and your availability to confer in respect of our client’s proposed application.”

Ms Higgins, who secured a $2.44 million payout from the Albanese Government a year ago on her 28th birthday, is believed to have purchased her first home in the south of France for an estimated $600,000.

Senator Reynolds has previously highlighted the enormous financial cost of pursuing the defamation action against her former employee, hinting that an agreement to pay her legal costs would need to be part of any settlement.

“I appreciate Ms Higgins’ apology, not only to me but also to (Ms Reynolds’ former chief of staff) Fiona Brown,” she said.

“I sincerely hope that Justice Lee’s findings in relation to Ms Higgins’ allegation of rape will give her peace.

“My legal action against both Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz was never about the allegation of rape. My action deals with what Justice Lee exposed as false allegations raised two years after the rape. Allegations that I and my staff, specifically Fiona Brown, not only failed to support Ms Higgins but subjected her to a dreadful and damaging political cover-up.”

Ms Higgins has apologised to Senator Reynolds, along with her then-chief of staff, Ms Brown, in the wake of Justice Lee’s judgment.

“Senator Reynolds and Fiona Brown have also been hurt and for that I am also sorry,” Ms Higgins said.

“My perceptions and feelings about what happened in the days and weeks after my rape are different from theirs. I deeply regret that we have not yet found common ground.”

But Senator Reynolds has made it clear that Ms Higgins’ statement was not enough to resolve her legal claim.

“At enormous emotional and financial cost, I have fought for three years to expose the truth in relation to my conduct,’’ Senator Reynolds said.

Ms Higgins was previously hospitalised in Perth this year after a serious self-harm incident. It followed a day of mediation over the defamation case with Senator Reynolds, which failed to resolve the matter.

Senator Reynolds then proposed a two-week break to allow her former employee to recover.

“Legal negotiations are unfortunately sometimes difficult and testing for all participants and yesterday was a tiring and difficult day for all of us,” Senator Reynolds said in a statement at the time.

Senator Reynolds has accused Ms Higgins of repeatedly defaming her in social media posts.

“Ever since Ms Higgins first made her allegations of rape public, I have been the target of unwarranted criticism and abuse,” Senator Reynolds said last year.

“I have had enough. I will not tolerate being defamed by her or anybody.”

If Senator Reynolds wins, she could be awarded a sizeable chunk of what remains of the compensation that Brittany Higgins was awarded following claims she suffered a psychiatric injury in the workplace. Ms Higgins has not held full-time work since 2021.

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