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The Jury On Bruce Lehrmann’s Trial Are Unable To Reach A Verdict

What happens now?

A jury has been unable to reach a verdict at Bruce Lehrmann’s trial for the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, the ACT Supreme Court has heard today. 

The trial has become one of Australia’s most prolific sexual assault cases, after Higgins accused Lehrmann of raping her inside Parliament House on March 21, 2019. It saw 29 witnesses come forward to give evidence, including former defence industry minister Linda Reynolds and former Liberal MP Steven Ciobo, whom Lehrmann and Higgins worked for at the time of the alleged assault, respectively. 

Lehrmann denies ever having sex with Higgins. 

After three and a half days of deliberation, the jury returned to court to tell Justice Lucy McCallum that they could not reach a unanimous decision on whether Lehrmann was guilty or not guilty. 

So what happens now? We unpack the next steps. 

(Credit: Getty)

What happens now? 

Per Nine News reporter Sophie Walsh, the Chief Magistrate has requested jurors “go away again to re-examine points in disagreement and try and reach a unanimous verdict.” 

If the jury is unable to reach a verdict, they will declare a hung jury. One of two things may happen in this circumstance: a retrial will take place, or The Crown may terminate the criminal proceedings. 

It’s yet to be decided what will happen in the case of Lehrmann’s trial.

The update comes after the 12-person jury made an initial request to Justice McCallum on Monday asking whether there were any time pressures on making a decision.

Justice McCallum told them there was “no rush”. 

“You take all the time that you need… we’ll hear from you when we hear from you.” 

The evidence in the case was presented over a fortnight, with Higgins finishing giving her evidence with an emotionally charged statement to Lehrmann on October 14: “Nothing was fine after what you did to me,” she said in court. 

When questioned by Lehrmann’s defence lawyer, Steven Whybrow about the time it took for her to mention the rape to her chief of staff, Higgins replied: “Because up until then I was holding it in, holding it in, holding it in, pretending like everything was fine and it wasn’t.” 

Meanwhile Whybrow closed his argument on October 19, by telling the jury that the alleged rape “didn’t happen”. 

“Our contention is that it didn’t. There was no sex. It didn’t happen,” he said. 

He called Higgins’ credibility into question over several “inconsistencies” in her argument, including a photo of a bruise that Higgins claimed was taken in the aftermath of the 2019 rape. Examinations of her phone by the police could not locate the image, nor was there a reference to it via texts until 2021. 

Ahead of giving evidence, Justice McCallum issued a clear warning to the jury in October asking them to refrain from reading media coverage around the case, nor discussing what they heard in court with others given this could impact the course of a fair and impartial trial.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service or contact Full Stop Australia.

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