ACT Chief Justice Lucy McCallum will deliver a decision next week on whether the trial of the man accused of raping former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins will go ahead as planned.
Bruce Lehrmann was charged with rape last year and has pleaded not guilty.
He was recently committed for trial in the ACT Supreme Court for allegedly raping Ms Higgins in an office inside Parliament House in March 2019.
Today, his lawyers applied for a stay on the charge, which could put an end to a future trial.
I don’t claim to know why Justice McCallum hasn’t ‘delivered.’ Could one reason be the calling of a federal election on 10 April? Had the decision been made to reject Mr Lehrmann’s application for a stay, the announcement would have had two interwoven corollaries: first, exploitation by the Labor Opposition and the media as an ersatz verdict against the Morrison government; and second, so much celebratory triumphalism that it would have been detrimental to the accused and therefore demonstrably erroneous within days.
On the other hand, calling off the trial (slated for June) would undercut Labor’s moralising about the ‘need’ for a federal ICAC and its hackneyed ‘woman problem’ polemic. Also apposite is the non publication order McCallum imposed on evidence presented at the stay hearing until her judgment is handed down. That might also be politically fraught. I’m surprised this formerly 24/7 story is no longer of much interest to the press gallery.