Three weeks ago today…

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.

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12 Responses to Three weeks ago today…

  1. Entropy says:

    It’s probably of no interest to the press gallery because the evidence isn’t helpful for the cause.

  2. C.L. says:

    A bit strange for a Supreme Court judge to undertake to hand down a decision in a week and then fail to do so – and nobody is asking why.

  3. Ed Case says:

    Both sides of Politics want this particular issue to go away.
    The Trial will be nixed, no doubt about it, but Labor might be hit with a protest vote by locals in the ACT?

  4. A local Gladys Liu roadside poster (on the back of a phonebox or something) has a laminated A3 letter from a guy purporting to have been hard-done-by at the hands of a government minion and laying the blame at the feet of the Libs for not getting around to the ICAC thingo. Has an email address that’s strangely ambiguous. Sounds a little ‘Hi, Alan…’ to me. 🙂

  5. SydGal says:

    CL- I had wondered about the trial too, and the lack of reporting/social media posts in the last few weeks. There is a new story about Higgins tonight – she has lodged a complaint with the AFP that the AFP disclosed 2 years confidential counselling notes and evidence in chief video recordings to the defence. Seems very odd that the disclosures could have occurred.

  6. C.L. says:

    Just saw that too, SydGal.

    Mmm.

    Justice Lucy McCallum is now four weeks late after saying on 1 April she would deliver her decision “next week” on whether to proceed with a trial at all.

    Something fishy about this. Like you, I’m amazed reporters aren’t all over it.

  7. Syd Gal says:

    I wondered how confidential counselling records came to be released to the defence. Didn’t Cardinal Pell’s team also seek counselling records and this request was denied?

    I was also surprised about the lack of media coverage/social media posts over the last few weeks, after the coverage over the last 15 months culminating in the Higgins/Tame National Press Club address in March.

    I think there was instruction that no party should discuss the case – but all the extensive media coverage remained online!

  8. SydGal says:

    Samantha Maiden’s March 2020 book, Party Animals, has an interesting chapter on the Politics of Rape.

  9. C.L. says:

    Some investigative journalism would be good. Unfortunately, the ABC cannot be trusted and News/Sky aren’t interested for some reason.

  10. SydGal says:

    CL – the USB seems to be a focus in the recent article. Would it have included the CCTV footage from various venues the night of the alleged offence? But surely that evidence should be made available to the defence? Some earlier extracts re the CCTV footage below.

    The Guardian Feb 2021
    Higgins said when she spoke to police at Parliament House on 27 March they already seemed to have information about events on the night of the alleged assault. “They were filling in blanks for me,” she said, which made it “a strange” but supportive conversation at a traumatic time.

    But she said when her complaint went to the sexual assault and child abuse team in Belconnen, police there conveyed the impression there was stonewalling from parliamentary officials about handing over relevant material.

    Higgins said the police officer she dealt with in Belconnen told her the unit was already in the process of acquiring footage from venues she attended on the night of the alleged assault. But she said she was “getting pushback” after “reaching out to Parliament House”. “She didn’t seem surprised by that,” Higgins said.

    Asked when the relevant incident reports were provided to police, the Department of Parliamentary Services initially told Guardian Australia “in April 2019”.

    When asked to supply the precise date, a DPS spokesperson said: “All relevant reports of the incident were provided to the AFP at their request on 7 April 2019.”

    and news.com March 2021
    Former Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has revealed he was briefed on CCTV taken on the night Brittany Higgins was allegedly raped five months ago but never knew it involved an alleged assault.

    The CCTV tracks Ms Higgins’ movements on the night of the alleged incident and the movements of the man who took her to Parliament.

    It was the subject of extensive negotiations between police and Parliament’s presiding officers, who didn’t want to release it without agreement.

    It was in this context that Mr Cormann was briefed as Senate leader on October 16, 2020 but he says he only knew it involved a security breach, not a potential crime.

    Sales continued: “You were the Leader of the Senate, a rape allegedly occurred in a senator’s office. In June last year the Senate President asked the inspector general of intelligence and security to take a look at CCTV footage from the night of that incident. The Finance Department … knew of the late-night access and the possible security breach and you were a very powerful figure and nobody thought to tell you?”

    Mr Cormann answered: “I was not aware of an alleged rape back then …“Furthermore, I’m not even sure that the Finance Department knew at the time that there was such an allegation” and…

    I only became aware of the alleged rape when the media story became public,” Senator Birmingham said.

    “I had been made aware at an earlier point in relation to the storage of CCTV footage about an incident that the AFP had shown interest in.

  11. C.L. says:

    But surely that evidence should be made available to the defence?

    That was my initial thought. If the transcript must be given to the defence, why not the video? There is something about the DPP’s role here that doesn’t sit right. He is a well-known Liberal loather (I did a post at old Catallaxy featuring many of his loony anti-Liberal, anti-Trump tweets). He goes out of his way to personally advise Higgins.

  12. Syd Gal says:

    Yes, thank you – a very strange case. It is the CCTV footage of the venues that I am interested in. I note the comments made by the ACT DPP a while ago criticising commentary in Parliament and by the Defence lawyer etc, yet there did not seem to be the same criticism on the extensive media coverage of the case for over a year, including the National Press Club address, with thousands of views.

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