Read top prosecutor’s full reasons for dropping the case against Brittany Higgins’ accused rapist Bruce Lehrmann
- ACT Director of Public Prosecutions explained reasons trial would not proceed
- He said the ‘public interest’ test indicated the second trial should be abandoned
- ‘Ongoing trauma’ of presented ‘unacceptable risk’ of second trial to Ms Higgins
ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold has fronted the media to explain why a second trial against Brittany Higgins’ alleged rapist Bruce Lehrmann will not proceed.
Mr Drumgold described the legal considerations he undertook to make the decision to abandon a new trial.
‘Principal considerations in whether or not to continue a prosecution are outlined in section 2 of the ACT prosecutions policy.
‘Section 2.1 of the policy states ‘The decision to prosecute should not be made lightly nor automatically but only after due consideration’. Broadly there are two considerations as outlined in section 2.4 of the prosecution policy which states: ‘The decision to prosecute can be understood as a two stage process.
‘First, does the evidence offer a reasonable prospect of conviction?
‘If, so is it in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution?’
Mr Drumgold described the legal considerations he undertook to make the decision to abandon a new trial for Ms Higgins’ accused rapist Bruce Lehrmann
ACT DPP Shane Drumgold said that while he still believed there was a reasonable prospect of conviction, the second ‘public interest’ consideration under the ACT policy was the influential factor in discontinuing the case
Mr Drumgold then said that while he still believed there was a reasonable prospect of conviction, the second ‘public interest’ consideration under the ACT policy was the influential factor in discontinuing the case.
‘I closely considered the reasonable prospect to conviction test when I first examined the brief of evidence in the week of 21 June 2021 and I formed a clear view that there was a reasonable prospect of conviction and this is a view that I still hold to date,’ Mr Drumgold said.
‘The non-exhaustive list of public interest tests, include section 2.9 paragraph being the actual or potential harm occasioned to any person as a result of the alleged offence which in this context includes the actual or potential harm occasioned by the ongoing prosecution of an alleged offence.
‘In short, I need to consider the harm that could be occasioned to a party, particularly a complainant from an ongoing prosecution.
‘I have recently received two compelling – recently received compelling evidence from two independent medical experts that the ongoing trauma associated with this prosecution presents a significant and unacceptable risk to the life of the complain ant.
‘The evidence makes it clear that this is not limited to the harm of giving evidence in a witness box, rather applies whether or not the complainant is required to enter a witness box during a retrial.
‘Whilst the pursuit of justice is essential for both my office and for the community in general, the safety of a complainant in a sexual assault matter must be paramount.
Ms Higgins had faced personal attacks ‘with bravery, grace and dignity and it is my hope that this will now stop and Ms Higgins will be allowed to heal’, ACT DPP Shane Drumgold said at a press conference on Friday
Mr Drumgold ended the press conference by indicating that his fears for the impact of another trial on Ms Higgins’ life were compelling enough to abandon a retrial, and praise her for her ‘bravery’ in the face of personal attacks.
‘In light of the compelling independent medical opinion and balancing all factors, I have made the difficult decision that it is no longer in the public interest to pursue a prosecution at the risk of the complainant’s life.
‘This has left me no option but to file a notice declining to proceed with the retrial of this matter which I have done this morning. This brings the prosecution to an end.
‘Before concluding, during the investigation and trial as a sexual assault complainant, Ms Higgins has faced a level of personal attack that I have not seen in over 20 years of doing this work.
‘She has done so with bravery, grace and dignity and it is my hope that this will now stop and Ms Higgins will be allowed to heal’.
Mr Lehrmann, 27, has always strenuously denied the allegation and pleaded not guilty in his first trial which sensationally collapsed in October
Mr Lehrmann, 27, has always strenuously denied the allegation and pleaded not guilty in his first trial which sensationally collapsed in October.
Shortly after Mr Drumgold’s press conference, Ms Higgin’s close friend Emma Webster revealed the former Liberal party staffer was currently in hospital.
‘She is getting the treatment and support she needs,’ she said. ‘The last couple of years have been difficult and unrelenting.
‘While it’s disappointing the trial has ended this way, Brittany Higgins’ health and safety must always come first.
‘Brittany is extremely grateful for all the support she has received, particularly from our mental health care workers.’
The first trial of Mr Lehrmann was scrapped when a member of the jury brought prohibited reading material – an academic study about false rape allegations – into the courtroom despite being warned several times by the judge.
A second trial had been scheduled for February next year before Mr Drumgold’s announcement on Friday.