Bruce Lehrmann breaks his silence after an inquiry into his aborted rape trial against Brittany Higgins is announced
- Bruce Lehrmann broke his silence on Wednesday to ‘welcome’ the inquiry
- The former political staffer has not spoken about the rape trial since it started
- Ex-colleague Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped by him in parliament house
- Mr Lehrmann has repeatedly and strenuously denied the rape allegations
The ACT government will move ahead with an inquiry into Bruce Lehrmann’s aborted trial, with the former parliamentary staffer ‘welcoming’ the news.
The Territory’s Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury and Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced the independent inquiry on Wednesday after a number of ‘complaints and allegations’ were made in relation to the trial.
The inquiry will consider whether the functions of criminal justice entities were ‘discharged with appropriate rigour, impartiality, and independence’.
Mr Lehrmann, who was accused of sexually assaulting Liberal colleague Brittany Higgins, pleaded not guilty to a single charge of sexual intercourse without consent.
In a statement released by his legal team shortly after the announcement, on his behalf, Mr Lehrmann said he hoped the inquiry was in depth.
‘Mr Lehrmann welcomes an inquiry and hope the terms of reference will extend to an examination of all aspects of this matter, including decisions not to prosecute various individuals and the efforts taken by the DPP to ensure a fair trial,’ the statement read.
Bruce Lehrmann at his rape trial in November. The trial was aborted due to juror misconduct
Mr Barr said a full inquiry was the most appropriate response given the ‘high-profile’ nature of the trial and the ‘serious’ allegations made.
‘I want to make clear that this inquiry is not about revisiting the trial, any evidence in the trial or the outcome of the trial,’ Mr Rattenbury said.
The inquiry will instead consider elements including the decision not to proceed to a retrial and the conduct of police investigators and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
It will also consider whether the support provided by the Victims of Crime Commissioner to Ms Higgins aligned with the relevant statutory framework and the legal framework for addressing juror misconduct.
The inquiry will be able to hold hearings – both public and private – issue search warrants, compel the production of documents, and compel the attendance of witnesses and take their evidence on oath.
Brittany Higgins speaking outside court after the trial was thrown out due to a juror bringing external material into the courtroom
ACT Policing, the DPP and Victims of Crime Commissioner have all indicated their intention to cooperate with the Inquiry.
The ACT Government has yet to identify an ’eminent legal expert’ to conduct the inquiry.
The terms of reference and key timeframes will be finalised in consultation with that expert in January 2023, and a final report is due by June 30.
Whether that report will be made public is a matter for the inquiry, Mr Barr said.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and his government will appoint a legal expert to conduct the inquiry
Lehrmann was alleged to have raped Ms Higgins inside Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office at Parliament House after a night out drinking with work colleagues in March 2019.
Mr Lehrmann strenuously denied the allegation and denied ever having sex with Ms Higgins.
He faced trial earlier this year but the jury was discharged in October after misconduct of one of the jurors was uncovered.
Mr Lehrmann was scheduled to face a retrial in the ACT Supreme Court in February next year before the prosecution dropped the rape case against him due to the ‘unacceptable’ risk to Ms Higgins’ life.