Linda Reynolds calls surprise witness as she prepares for defamation case against Brittany Higgins

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to be called as a witness for Senator Linda Reynolds as she fights to clear her name in a looming defamation trial against former staffer Brittany Higgins.

The matter was back in the WA Supreme Court on Tuesday for a directions hearing to try to finalise a start date for the trial and timetable, but lawyers were at odds.

The senator’s legal team wanted the trial date to go ahead as scheduled on July 24 so they could subpoena witnesses, who are expected to include former Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Senator Michaelia Cash.

But lawyers representing Ms Higgins asked for the date to be deferred by a week so her new Perth-based counsel, led by Rachel Young SC, could be briefed.

WA Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds outside the David Malcolm Justice Centre with lawyer Martin Bennett. Picture: NewsWire / Sharon Smith

Brittany Higgins outside the David Malcolm Justice Centre in Perth earlier this year. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sharon Smith

Brittany Higgins outside the David Malcolm Justice Centre in Perth earlier this year. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Sharon Smith

Speaking outside of court, Ms Reynolds told reporters she wanted to see justice for the ‘many people whose lives had been destroyed’ in the fallout of Ms Higgins’ allegation that she was raped by former colleague Bruce Lehrmann in the Senator’s office, a claim he has denied.

The senator is suing Ms Higgins, and her newlywed husband David Sharaz, over social media posts the couple made, which the senator claims defamed her.

In the Federal Court earlier this year, Justice Michael Lee ruled he was convinced to a civil standard – which is different to a criminal standard – that on the balance of probabilities Ms Higgins was raped.

That finding came following legal action Mr Lehrmann brought against Network 10 and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a report on The Project program in 2021.

Mr Lehrmann is appealing the decision.

Justice Lee also found claims of a political cover-up involving Senator Reynolds and others were not true, a finding Senator Reynolds has previously said vindicated her.

Outside of court on Tuesday, the senator told reporters she had always hoped she and Ms Higgins could reach settlement before the matter went to trial.

‘So we are going to court because it is far too important, I need to clear my name finally, it has been well over three years and so many people have been so damaged by this,’ the senator said.

‘Justice Lee was very clear in terms of the fact that there was never any political conspiracy, that Ms Higgins was looked after by myself, and particularly my chief of staff Fiona Brown.

‘It is time that those people who have perpetuated that (claim) agree they were wrong, apologise, so that we can all move on.

‘There was simply never any political conspiracy and there was certainly the allegations of mistreatment as the evidence in the Lee trial has absolutely demonstrated.’

A judgment for the matter involving Mr Sharaz was handed down in May after he gave consent to the court but asked that an assessment of damages relating to the Senator’s claim against him be made after the trial with Ms Higgins.

His lawyer Jason MacLaurin told the court that his client wanted little to do with the case.

Justice Paul Tottle ordered Mr Sharaz be restrained from making social media posts like those that were alleged to have damaged Senator Reynolds’ reputation.

The matter was adjourned to a date to be determined next week.