13 June 2023

Board of Inquiry into Lehrmann case adjourns, parties set to hear adverse findings next week

| Lizzie Waymouth
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Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann walking to court in different photographs

The Board of Inquiry has discussed a number of key aspects of the prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann and is expected to deliver draft recommendations by 30 June. Photos: Michelle Kroll/Albert McKnight.

After four weeks of hearings, the Board of Inquiry into the ACT criminal justice system’s handling of the Bruce Lehrmann case has likely concluded taking evidence.

Inquiry chair Walter Sofronoff KC is expected to inform the individuals and institutions involved whether there are any potential adverse findings against them by 9 June 2023.

“Any submissions in reply to those written submissions are to be delivered to relevant parties and to the inquiry by 28 June,” Mr Sofronoff said.

The commission will then deliver a copy of its draft recommendations by 30 June. Mr Sofronoff said that, after this, the inquiry will aim to deliver the report “as soon as possible” and, in any case, before the deadline of 31 July.

READ ALSO Heidi Yates questioned on decision to publicly accompany Brittany Higgins to court

The inquiry has heard from ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC, Mr Lehrmann’s defence counsel Steven Whybrow SC and his former barrister John Korn, several senior police officers involved in the matter, the solicitor for Network Ten, and Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates.

Mr Drumgold had been expected to continue cross-examination, but the inquiry’s executive director announced on Wednesday (31 May) he would not be asked to return to further hearings.

There is a chance that a final witness from the DPP’s office may be required to give evidence next week.

“I think it’s highly unlikely, but there’s just one witness we need to look at again to determine whether we need to cross-examine,” Mr Drumgold’s counsel Mark Tedeschi KC said, adding that they will know by Monday (5 June).

Counsel for the AFP Kate Richardson SC said that a number of documents are set to be tendered, including this witness’s statement, which she said they believe is “central” to a matter in the inquiry, and that if Mr Tedeschi wished to challenge that evidence, he would need to ask for that witness to be called and put matters to them.

READ ALSO DPP Shane Drumgold not required to return to Board of Inquiry despite not completing cross-examination

The Board of Inquiry is investigating the conduct of the ACT’s criminal justice system during the trial of Bruce Lehrmann, who pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent. He was accused of raping Brittany Higgins in Parliament House on 23 March 2019.

The inquiry has explored the extent of the breakdown in the professional relationship between the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and ACT Policing officers involved in the Lehrmann case, touching on the wider context of the handling of sexual assault cases in the ACT.

They were also asked about the relationship between Ms Higgins and the police, and the involvement of Ms Yates as a liaison between the two parties.

The inquiry has heard multiple witnesses explain their interpretation of key events in the case, including the DPP’s attempt to prevent the disclosure of the ‘Moller Report’, a set of AFP documents that raised Detective Superintendent Scott Moller’s concerns about inconsistencies in Ms Higgins’ evidence. Witnesses have also spoken on the unauthorised disclosure of confidential information concerning Ms Higgins in the brief of evidence mistakenly served to Mr Korn, including her counselling notes and other unredacted details.

Information about the inquiry, including tendered exhibits and recordings of the hearings, can be found on the Board of Inquiry website.

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So many snakes in this saga, almost everyone involved seems to be playing games and telling lies. Ten of millions wasted!

Commissioner Yates – the Smiling Assassin. Hope she gets her just desserts.

Capital Retro3:24 pm 03 Jun 23

At least you are consistent with the way you are reporting this debacle in making a conclusion that there will be adverse findings when in fact, the statement from the inquiry chair was “potential adverse findings”.

Just like the word “alleged” went missing whenever the accused was referred to.

Qualifications in law are very important.

How much has this he said, she said debacle cost?

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