Lehrmann prosecutor regrets ‘feeding the pack’ after mistrial

The ACT’s chief prosecutor says he regrets his decision to make a public statement about the personal attacks against Brittany Higgins when he dropped the rape charges against her former colleague Bruce Lehrmann.

May 11, 2023, updated May 11, 2023
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

Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold will be questioned for a fourth day at an independent inquiry into how the territory’s justice system handled Higgins’ rape allegations.

Lehrmann faced an ACT Supreme Court trial in October 2022 but juror misconduct meant a verdict was not reached.

When he announced he would not proceed with a retrial because of the impact on Higgins’ mental health in December, Drumgold noted she had faced “a level of personal attack” in the media that he had not seen in more than 20 years in the legal profession.

He said she had done so with “bravery, grace and dignity” and it was his hope that this would stop.

On Wednesday, Drumgold told the inquiry his intention when making the statement had been to “lighten the load” on Higgins following his decision to drop the charges againstLehrmann.

But he conceded he should not have made the statement, as it only “fed the pack”.

“It’s burnt in my memory, because I probably shouldn’t have done it,” he said.

“It was on my part naive that it would have any benefit. I foolishly thought they (the media) might give her a break.”

Asked if he had considered the impact of his statement on Lehrmann’s right to the presumption of innocence, Drumgold said he had sympathy for all involved.

“Cases like this have no winners and no losers. They only have losers and losers,” he said.

“For me, however, there was a complainant in a very vulnerable position … the goal was that the media might at least back off for a little while until she could heal.”

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The inquiry was established by the ACT government after accusations from both offices about each other’s conduct during the investigation and trial.

Inquiry chair Walter Sofronoff is examining how territory police, prosecutors and a victim support service handled Higgins’ allegations.

Officers from ACT Policing and the AFP are expected to give evidence to the inquiry, as well as Lehrmann’s defence lawyer and journalist Lisa Wilkinson.


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