Brittany Higgins is launching a claim for compensation against her former boss and former government minister, Linda Reynolds. It comes after Higgins made a lengthy statement calling for reform of Australia’s justice system in cases involving sexual assault.
Reynolds confirmed in a statement that she had been contacted by Higgins’ lawyers back in March with a “civil claim by Ms Higgins against me and other parties”, and that she has been advised the civil claim will progress this month (December). Per Sydney Morning Herald, the civil claim is also against another former Liberal minister, Michaelia Cash as well as the Commonwealth.
The publication reports that the documents sent to the ministers set out an intention to sue for sexual harassment, sex discrimination, disability discrimination, negligence, and victimisation and is claiming for up to $3 million in compensation.
Reynolds was Higgins’ boss when the former Liberal staffer alleged she was raped by her then-colleague Bruce Lehrmann in Parliament House in 2019, and Higgins later worked with Senator Cash after leaving Reynolds’ office.
Lehrmann has maintained his innocence over the rape allegations, and the case went to trial in October. It was later dismissed due to juror misconduct, and Crown prosecutor Shane Drumgold has confirmed the case would not be moving forward with a retrial due to the risk it posed to Higgins’ mental health.
“While the pursuit of justice is essential for my office and for the community in general, the safety of a complainant in a sexual assault matter must be paramount,” Drumgold shared in a statement in December.
He added that Higgins had faced a “level of personal attack that I have not seen in over 20 years of doing this work” during the investigation and trial, and that he hopes this will now stop.
Two days after the announcement, Higgins shared a lengthy statement to Instagram about her experience with the justice system and the reality it poses to complainants in sexual assault cases.
“Their lives are torn apart, their families and friends called to the witness stand and the accused has the legal right to say absolutely nothing,” she wrote, adding
Higgins referred to sobering statistics in the ACT showing that only 16 per cent of sexual offences reported to police result in a charge, and of that 16 per cent, only half end in a conviction.
“That is our national shame,” she continued, “I want to thank the other women who came forward and shared their own experiences.”
“I believe you. You were with me every day I walked into that court room and faced him.”