Jury begins deliberating in Parliament House rape trial

Closing arguments in the trial for Bruce Lehrmann, accused of raping Brittany Higgins, have finished and a jury has begun its deliberations.

Oct 19, 2022, updated Oct 20, 2022
Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

Closing arguments scrutinised Higgins’ credibility before the jury was sent to deliberate on the previous three weeks of evidence.

Lehrmann is being tried in the ACT Supreme Court, after pleading not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent.

Higgins alleges Lehrmann raped her inside a ministerial office in Parliament House after a night out drinking with colleagues, but he denies the pair ever had sex.

Defence lawyer Steven Whybrow said if Higgins had convinced herself that she had been raped her emotions in the witness box may have been genuine.

“We have these things called con artists because demeanour is a difficult thing for people to pick up sometimes,” he said in his closing argument on Wednesday.

“She (Ms Higgins) has reconstructed events to the point that she now genuinely believes they are true. That doesn’t mean they are true,” he said.

He told the jury there were few statements Ms Higgins presented as facts that had not been demonstrated to be suspect in the trial.

He said there was no DNA evidence or medical complaints to support Higgins’ version of events, but instead “contemporaneous lies” about visiting a doctor.

Whybrow used an example of a photograph of a bruise Higgins said she took after the alleged assault.

He said there was no evidence that bruise had anything to do with that night.

“She’s been caught out. Other people have come along and checked … and there’s no evidence of this,” he said.

Before excusing them for deliberations, Chief Justice Lucy McCallum told the jury they must act impartially, without emotion or prejudice and give a true verdict according to the evidence presented in the courtroom.

“You are not answerable to popular opinion … whichever way you may think it sways,” she said.

“Your verdict, whether it be guilty or not guilty, must be unanimous.”

She reminded jurors of the importance of the presumption of Lehrmann’s innocence and that it was up to the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Lehrmann exercised his right to silence and did not enter the witness box during the trial. Instead the jury was played his police interview.

Chief Justice McCallum said his decision not to give evidence in court could not be used as an admission of guilt and did not strengthen the prosecution’s case.

Earlier Whybrow told the jury Higgins had 325,000 reasons to push ahead with her rape accusation.

This was in reference to the $325,000 book deal Higgins was offered after giving two media interviews about her rape allegation in 2021.

Prosecutor Shane Drumgold on Tuesday said Higgins had been a credible and honest witness whose version of events that night had not wavered.

Meanwhile, he said Lehrmann had given inconsistent accounts about his reasons for being at parliament on the night of the alleged assault to the security guards, to his boss and to the police.

Drumgold also said after the alleged rape Higgins was caught in the middle of “strong political forces”.

“We say she was right to be scared, she was right to be cautious and she was right to move slowly and carefully,” he said.

But Whybrow told the jury on Wednesday that, other than Higgins, no other witnesses had given evidence about “political forces” at play.

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