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Brittany Higgins referred to police by Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyers for comments after aborted rape trial | Law (Australia) & More News

 

Accused rapist Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyers have referred public comments made by Brittany Higgins on Thursday to the court and police, saying they “might” amount to contempt of court.

The jury in Lehrmann’s trial over his alleged rape of Higgins was dismissed in sensational circumstances on Thursday, after a juror was found to have brought outside research on sexual assaults into the jury room.

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The discovery, a week after the jury first began deliberations, left the judge with no choice but to “abort” the trial, she said, before setting down a preliminary date for a possible second trial in February.

After the decision, Higgins made an emotional statement outside the ACT supreme court in which she thanked supporters and also levelled criticisms against the justice system.

In her statement, Higgins said her life had been “completely scrutinised, open for the world to see”, while making criticisms of the accused’s right to silence.

“I was required to tell the truth under oath for over a week on the witness stand and was cross-examined at length.”

The statement – which was broadcast in full on public and commercial television stations – has immediately drawn the ire of Lehrmann’s legal team.

In a statement, Lehrmann’s barrister, Steven Whybrow, noted the Australian Capital Territory’s chief justice, Lucy McCallum, had made “strong comments about people making statements or comments that could prejudice a fair trial”.

“We have brought these comments to the attention of the court and the Australian federal police, and it is not appropriate for Mr Lehrmann or his lawyers to make any comment as to whether the complainant’s statements might amount to a contempt of court or offences against the ACT Criminal Code,” he said.

He urged all media to “show restraint in reporting this matter” and in particular “republishing the statements made by the complainant”.

Whybrow said his client and their legal team would not be making any further comment.

Higgins made her statement outside the supreme court after McCallum discharged the 12-person jury on Thursday, following the discovery that a juror had brought outside research on sexual assaults into the jury room.

“It has come to my attention that one of you, contrary to directions, has undertaken research in relation to issues in the case, and that material has entered the jury room that ought not to have,” McCallum told the jury.

“I have heard an explanation and it may be that no harm has been done, but that is not a risk that I can take. In the circumstances, I have discharged that juror and I have to discharge you all.”

Outside the court after the decision, Whybrow made a short statement standing alongside his client, who denies the accusations against him and pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

“Everyone is disappointed at what happened but it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to say anything at this time,” he said.

In her statement, Higgins said her life had been “completely scrutinised, open for the world to see”, while making criticisms of the accused’s right to silence.

“This is the reality of how complainants in sexual assault cases are treated,” she said.

“Their lives are torn apart, their friends and families are called to the witness stand and the accused has the legal right to say absolutely nothing.”

In criminal cases, the accused have a right to silence. During the trial both the judge and the prosecutor, Shane Drumgold SC, repeatedly stressed to the jury that it was up to the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“This is not a case of two competing versions with you getting to choose which one you accept,” Drumgold said on the first day of the trial.

“The prosecution must prove this case beyond reasonable doubt.”

Outside the court on Thursday Higgins also thanked “the people of Australia who have rallied behind me” and “the workers in Canberra’s healthcare system without whom I literally wouldn’t be here today”.

She also thanked her legal team, family, and Heidi Yates, the ACT victims of crime commissioner.

Brittany Higgins referred to police by Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyers for comments after aborted rape trial | Law (Australia)

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