Bruce Lehrmann's jury has been dismissed after a juror conducted their own research on the case, rendering a mistrial. Chief Justice Lucy McCallum is looking at rescheduling the trial for February next year.
Per Tahlia Roy on Twitter, "Chief Justice Lucy McCallum grants Bruce Lehrmann bail until Feb 20, and set a retrial date of Feb 23. The jury in the trial of Mr Lehrmann has been discharged without a verdict after a juror admitted to accessing information not presented as evidence in court."
Per Eden Gillepsie on Twitter, "The court heard the juror had brought in a research paper on sexual assault, which attempted to quantify the number of false complaints and interrogate the reasons for making false complaints."
Inside the ACT Supreme Court Lehrmann plead not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent against former political staffer, Brittany Higgins.
It comes two days after the jury returned from first deliberations declaring that they could not reach a unanimous decision. In response, Justice McCallum asked them to return and continue deliberating, hoping that they could reach a verdict.
Per Isabelle Mullins on Twitter, "Bruce Lehrmann's bail has been granted on condition he doesn't contact Brittany Higgins. If he intends on leaving the country he must give the AFP his itinerary 2 weeks in advance."
Higgins alleged Lehrmann raped her in the parliamentary office of former defence minister Linda Reynolds on March 23, 2019, after a night out in Canberra.
Chief Justice Lucy McCallum reduced the 16-person jury to 12 in a random ballot, as that is the number of people required to deliver a verdict. She said her summing up would be on several points: the presumption of innocence; the onus of proof remaining with the prosecutor; the standard of proof being beyond reasonable doubt and the respective roles of the barristers, the judge and the jury.
This article deals with sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
what was bruce lehrmann accused of?
After attending a Canberra bar with colleagues on the night of March 22, 2019, both Higgins and Lehrmann shared a taxi to Parliament House, as he needed to do some work.
"I thought I was being a gentleman," he said, in a now-released, three-hour interview with police.
In a separate statement to police, Lehrmann's then chief of staff, Fiona Brown, claimed he told her that the early-morning visit was to drink whisky — he rebukes this claim.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold told the court that security guards who saw Higgins and Lehrmann enter the building had observed they were affected by alcohol. The court then heard that Higgins fell asleep on a couch in the office of her boss, Senator Linda Reynolds' and that when she woke up, Lehrmann was having sex with her.
Drumgold told the court that Higgins said "said 'no' half a dozen times". After the alleged act, Lehrmann left the building without Higgins, who fell back asleep. She was woken up later that morning by a security guard, who told the court she was "completely naked" and in the foetal position.
Lehrmann denies having ever set foot in Reynolds' office, telling police that he "wouldn't dream" of going in there. Instead, he claimed seeing Higgins entering the ministerial suite, with the pair splitting off to their respective desks. He then told police that after completing his work, he left Parliament House alone, without saying goodbye to Higgins.
Just under a year later, in January 2021, Higgins would publicly accuse Lehrmann of raping her.
what did the courts hear?
Lehrmann's defence lawyer, Steven Whybrow, replayed the timeline of events to the court in his closing address. In it, he recounted Higgins' conversations and recorded interviews with The Project host, Lisa Wilkinson, with Higgins herself making comments about her involvement with Wilkinson during her examination.
Higgins told the court that Wilkinson was "quite angry" that their interview on The Project (which aired on February 15, 2021) was released on a Monday, as it was a day she was not typically on the show.
It increasingly became "not about me or my story" and more about who would win journalistic awards, Higgins told the courts, with Whybrow accusing her of "throwing other people under the bus" as "something is happening that might not suit her."
Wilkinson was dropped as a witness five days ago and did not appear in court to give evidence.
Senior Constable Frizzell also told the court that she warned Higgins that speaking with the media could jeopardise the investigation and any subsequent court proceedings. Higgins told the court that she spoke to the media in the hopes that it would bring cultural reform to the Liberal Party, maintaining that she as "not ashamed" of this decision, and stood by her choice.
Higgins' book deal also became a focal point in the trial, with Whybrow suggesting she revived her formal complaint in 2021 after receiving a $325,000 book deal. This offer was negotiated by author Peter FitzSimons, husband to Lisa Wilkinson.
"There are now 325,000 reasons that this case is important from her perspective," Whybrow told the court.
That same day, Whybrow also accused Higgins of making up a story surrounding the bruise on her leg in order to make her claims more believable. Higgins gave evidence to the court that an image of a bruise was taken on April 3, 2019. Whybrow told the court that police had instructed Higgins not to delete the image in 2019, but she did.
"There were 8000 photos extracted from the phone. That photo wasn't one of them,'' he said.
A digital forensic expert tasked by police with examining Higgins' phone also told the court that there is no mention of the bruise in her text messages until February 2021.
"I reject you completely," Higgins told Whybrow, in response to his assertion that she fabricated the assertion that she sustained the bruise as a result of the alleged assault.
Higgins said her hesitation to hand her phone over to police stemmed from a discovery that there was an "information flow" between police and Parliament House, namely the fact that police had been in contact with former Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton.
Drumgold urged the jury to avoid getting "distracted by side issues or red herrings". He reminded the court that the case against Lehrmann is not about political parties, the MeToo movement or Parliament House's security procedures.
"This case is about what happened on a couch in a room on Saturday the 23rd of March 2019," he said, before adding that it "defies common sense" that anything Higgins has said or done after the alleged assault could "impact the credibility of what she said or did back in 2019", cititng her as a credible witness with a consistent story.
"We submit she did not falter. If this is a fabrication she's also quite the actor," he added.
Drumgold finished by telling the jury if it was "comfortably satisfied beyond reasonable doubt" that Higgins has told the truth then "the only verdict you can return is a verdict of guilty". Whybrow, however, told the jury that it could not find his client guilty "even if you think he did it," claiming that these suspicions were "not sufficient" enough.