Judge calls for media silence ahead of Lehrmann retrial

A judge has called for the media to fall silent and ensure a fair trial for Bruce Lehrmann, accused of raping Brittany Higgins in Parliament House.

Oct 28, 2022, updated Oct 28, 2022
Photo: AAP/Dean Lewins

Photo: AAP/Dean Lewins

Lehrmann will face a new trial in the ACT Supreme Court after juror misconduct caused a mistrial yesterday.

A trial date has been set for February 2023. Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to the charge of sexual intercourse without consent.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum, overseeing the trial, urged the media to cease reporting on the matter.

“The accused is just that. He is a person that stands accused,” she said.

“The fairness of his trial will undoubtedly be impaired or at risk if people continue to report on this case with the frequency that has occurred.”

McCallum said after media had reported the mistrial, further reporting on the matter “should fall silent” to ensure Lehrmann could have a fair trial.

It would also allows Higgins to have “some respite from the intense glare of the media that has been pervasive in this trial”.

McCallum dismissed the jury after it was discovered one of them brought information into the deliberation room which had not been presented during the trial.

Following a 12-day trial and five days of deliberations, she said it was an unexpected and unfortunate outcome.

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

Contrary to her directions to the jury not to undertake their own research, the chief justice said an academic paper which had not been presented in court was inadvertently discovered among one of the juror’s notes.

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

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It included information about quantifying the number of false complaints and an analysis of scepticism in the face of true complaints.

Despite the juror in question claiming the material had not been used or relied upon, Chief Justice McCallum dismissed the entire jury panel.

“I have heard an explanation and it may be that no harm has been done but that is a risk I cannot take,” she said.

The chief justice noted despite being the case in other jurisdictions, the juror’s actions did not constitute an offence in the ACT.

She thanked the prosecution and defence for the “exemplary way” they conducted themselves during the course of the trial.

She said the role of counsel in criminal trials, particularly defence counsel, was sometimes poorly understood.

“In this trial, all counsel have conducted themselves with the utmost integrity, fairness, honesty and, perhaps most importantly, fearlessness,” she said.

“They are to be commended, not criticised, for doing so.”


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