The retrial against Bruce Lehrmann is expected to be dropped in light of new medical evidence which suggests a second trial would have as devastating impact on the mental health of Brittany Higgins, per psychiatric advice.
“A second trial against Brittany Higgins’ accused rapist Bruce Lehrmann will not be going ahead after the DPP received compelling evidence a retrial would could significant and unacceptable harm to the life of the complainant,” Stella Todorovic tweeted.
The lead prosecutor, ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold, gave a statement this morning to announce the news, which was expected after it was revealed the ACT Supreme Court would hold a closed hearing into Lehrmann’s retrial. Media were banned from attending the hearing and from reporting about what the application was about.
The information comes after The Australian reported that the ACT government was reportedly attempting to amend its Evidence Act in a move suspected to be aimed at making it easier to retry Lehrmann. The legislative change would allow testimony given by a complainant in court to be recorded and deemed admissible in a retrial, which would allow Higgins’ previous evidence, which was delivered in person in October, to be used again. This would free her from having to re-attend court or face further cross-examination from Lehrmann’s lawyers in a retrial.
It was unclear whether such a bill could pass the ACT Legislative Assembly before the rescheduled trial began, but in light of this new information, is no longer relevant to this case.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins supported the law change, speaking to The Oz about the “retraumatising” impact of making sexual assault complaints in court.
On the 26th October, the jury in the Lehrmann trial was dismissed for misconduct after one juror was revealed to have brought in an academic research paper, ignoring explicit instructions not to conduct outside research.
Chief Justice Lucy McCallum explained that a court worker, who was carrying out routine tidying, accidentally bumped one of the jurors’ document folders onto the floor and noticed the beginning of an academic research paper on sexual assault.
At that point, the jury was five days into the deliberation, and had previously told the court that they were unable to reach a decision. Justice McCallum urged them to try and agree, sending them back to deliberations.
A new trial had been set for the 20th February 2022 and Lehrmann is currently out on bail.