2 December 2022

Bruce Lehrmann rape charge dropped due to 'unacceptable risk' to Brittany Higgins' life

| Albert McKnight

Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann, pictured separately during the first trial. Photos: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses an alleged sexual assault.

The ACT’s top prosecutor has announced he has dropped the charge against the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins at Parliament House.

Speaking to media this morning (2 December), Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC said he had made the “difficult decision” that it was no longer in the public interest to pursue the prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann “at the risk of the complainant’s life”.

He said he had recently received evidence from medical experts saying the “ongoing trauma associated with the prosecution presents a significant and unacceptable risk to the life of the complainant”.

Mr Drumgold said he had filed a notice declining to proceed with the retrial of Mr Lehrmann on Friday morning.

“This brings the prosecution to an end,” he said.

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He said as a sexual assault complainant “Ms Higgins has faced a level of personal attacks that I have not seen in over 20 years of doing this job”.

“She has done so with bravery, grace and dignity, and it is my hope that this will now stop and Ms Higgins will be allowed to heal,” Mr Drumgold said.

Afterwards a close friend of Ms Higgins, Emma Webster, released a statement saying Ms Higgins was in hospital getting the treatment and support she needed.

“The last couple of years have been difficult and unrelenting,” Ms Webster said.

“While it’s disappointing the trial has ended this way, Brittany’s health and safety must always come first.

“Brittany is extremely grateful for all the support she has received, particularly from our mental health care workers.”

Mr Lehrmann had pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent.

He was accused of raping Ms Higgins in Minister Linda Reynolds’ office in Parliament House on 23 March 2019 and sat through 12 days of an ACT Supreme Court trial that started in October 2022.

The trial heard from a range of witnesses and interviews, including from Ms Reynolds, security guards, public servants and police, to Mr Lehrmann as well as several days of testimony from Ms Higgins herself.

However, it ultimately ended in a mistrial and the jury was discharged because one juror brought forbidden information into the jury room.

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Afterwards, Ms Higgins gave a speech to media outside the court in which she thanked her family, partner, friends and the DPP team, but also commented on the case.

“Many of you in the media have been called out for labelling the last few weeks the Higgins Trial; but I don’t blame you, because it’s very clear who has been on trial,” she said.

Mr Lehrmann’s barrister, Steven Whybrow, then brought some of the comments she made to the attention of the AFP and the court.

In the days after the mistrial, the DPP had signalled its intention to run a retrial of the case.

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