Brittany Higgins speaks out after trial bombshell

Brittany Higgins has issued a blistering statement about the trial of Bruce Lehrmann, accused of raping her inside Canberra’s Parliament House, after the trial was aborted today and another scheduled for February when it was found a juror had obtained information outside the evidence presented in court.

Oct 27, 2022, updated Oct 27, 2022
A Federal Court judge says Brittany Higgins was raped by Bruce Lehrmann: AAP/Mick Tsikas. Bruce Lehrmann photo: AAP/Dean Lewins

A Federal Court judge says Brittany Higgins was raped by Bruce Lehrmann: AAP/Mick Tsikas. Bruce Lehrmann photo: AAP/Dean Lewins

Bruce Lehrmann was being tried by the ACT Supreme Court, charged with sexual intercourse without consent.

He pleaded not guilty.

Higgins alleges Lehrmann raped her in the parliamentary office of Linda Reynolds when they worked for her as defence industry minister in March 2019. He denies any sexual interaction and opted not to give evidence in his defence during the trial.

The jury was dismissed this morning following a 12-day trial after a little more than five days of deliberations.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said it had been discovered a juror had undertaken some research in relation to the Brittany Higgins case which had entered the jury room.

“I have received evidence that at least one juror has had access to research material that was not provided to the jury during the trial,” McCallum said.

It is beyond question the conduct of a juror is such to abort the trial

She said the sheriff’s office had inadvertently discovered evidence a juror had access to research material not provided to the jury.

During routine tidying, one of the sheriffs accidentally bumped one of the juror’s document folders onto the floor.

The chief justice said when the officer picked up the box, he noticed part of the title page of an academic research paper.

Upon further investigation it was discovered the topic of the paper was sexual assault.

The chief justice said the juror in question gave an explanation suggesting the document had not been used or relied upon.

However, she said it was appropriate to regard that evidence with some scepticism.

The juror was dismissed along with the rest of the jury, who the chief justice thanked for their time.

“It is beyond question the conduct of a juror is such to abort the trial,” she said.

A new trial has been set down for February 20 next year and Lehrmann will remain on bail.

Higgins addressed the media outside the court on Thursday morning after the trial jury was dismissed.

“I was required to tell the truth under oath for over a week in the witness stand, I was cross-examined at length,” she said.

“He was afforded the choice of staying silent in court, head down in a notebook, completely detached. He never faced one question in court about his story and the criminal charges.”

Higgins said that she was required to surrender her telephones, passwords, messages, photos and private data.

“My life has been publicly scrutinised, open for the world to see,” she said.

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“His was not.”

Defence lawyer Steven Whybrow also addressed the media outside court, while Lehrmann remained silent.

“We’re disappointed by what’s happened, but it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to say anything at this stage,” Whybrow told reporters.

On Wednesday, McCallum revealed details of the accused’s previous attempt to delay or permanently halt the case.

Lehrmann’s lawyers cited former prime minister Scott Morrison’s parliamentary apology to women as reason for a delay, arguing it disadvantaged his case.

The then-prime minister apologised directly to Higgins – who was sitting in the public gallery – for the “terrible things” that had happened in parliament.

“The place that should have been a place of safety and contribution turned out to be a nightmare,” he said.

“I’m sorry for all those who came before Ms Higgins and endured the same. But she had the courage to stand, and so here we are.”

McCallum said the defence had argued the case was unique because Higgins “walks into court with an aura about her” and that the problem this created was “incurable”.

She did not accept the application.

On Tuesday, the jury sent a note to the court indicating it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the rape allegation.

But the chief justice asked them to return to their deliberations, saying experience shows juries are able to reach a decision if given more time.

McCallum asked them to calmly and objectively listen to each other’s opinions and try to reach a unanimous decision.

But she reminded them they could not join in a verdict if they did not “honestly and genuinely” think it was the correct one.

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-with AAP

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