15 October 2022

'He was violating me': Brittany Higgins' fiery cross-examination resumes

| Claire Fenwicke
Brittany Higgins leaving court

Brittany Higgins faced her second day of cross-examination at the ACT Supreme Court. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses an alleged sexual assault.

During her second day of cross-examination in the ACT Supreme Court, Brittany Higgins bristled at suggestions she made up her sexual assault in order to keep her job and to avoid the embarrassment of being discovered naked in Parliament House.

Ms Higgins returned to court five days after her cross-examination began.

The defendant, Bruce Lehrmann, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent.

Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steven Whybrow suggested her interactions with his client after the alleged incident had been “cordial and normal”.

“I wouldn’t say normal … after a trauma, you go through a period of freeze,” Ms Higgins replied.

“I was trying to hold on. I don’t know. I was scared.”

Mr Whybrow again put it to Ms Higgins the reason for her behaviour was actually because the alleged assault had never occurred.

“No, it was me compartmentalising my trauma … I cared about my job more than my life, which is f***ked up.

“Nothing was fine after what you did to me – nothing!” she exclaimed, pointing across the room at Mr Lehrmann.

Mr Whybrow reminded Ms Higgins she had been seen naked by a security guard in Parliament House and suggested she had been “embarrassed” by the situation she had found herself in.

He suggested when she discovered this, and that the incident had been elevated, she became concerned for her job and thus did “what you felt was necessary” to keep it.

“I’m not a monster. I would never do something like that,” Ms Higgins responded.

“You’re suggesting I fabricated this to keep my job.”

Two men walking

Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steven Whybrow (right) continued his cross-examination of Brittany Higgins on Friday (14 October). Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Mr Whybrow questioned Ms Higgins further about her conversation with chief of staff Fiona Brown and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and the support she received.

He suggested Senator Reynolds had “urged” or “encouraged” Ms Higgins to report the matter to police. But Ms Higgins argued when the option of going to police was raised, it was in the context of the upcoming election.

She claimed support also had caveats.

“It was framed with other things [such as the election] … it had all these sort of provisions on it,” Ms Higgins said.

“It felt threatening as an employee … sure she said nice things … [but] I felt my job was on the line.”

Mr Whybrow probed this further, suggesting her office had supported her by offering special arrangements to work from the Gold Coast.

Ms Higgins forcefully disagreed.

“They said they would pay me out for the entirety of the election to the Gold Coast … so yeah, they’d pay me out and I’d never have a job again,” she claimed.

READ ALSO Bruce Lehrmann tells his version of night he allegedly raped Brittany Higgins

Another point of contention was a taped conversation between Ms Higgins and Lisa Wilkinson ahead of their official interview for The Project. The conversation had been recorded by Ms Wilkinson’s producer, but Ms Higgins had not signed a statutory declaration for the conversation’s use.

In this conversation, Ms Higgins had claimed Mr Lehrmann had removed her underwear. However, Ms Higgins later clarified the record that she hadn’t worn underwear the night of the alleged incident.

“I know it sounds salacious and clickbaity … I didn’t wear underwear with that dress as it left lines … as a 20-year-old girl, you care about stuff like that,” she said.

“I wasn’t wearing underwear and that is the truth.

“I’ve corrected the record since … I was embarrassed by it and I’m now embarrassed by it in front of a court.”

Man and woman walking to court

Bruce Lehrmann (left) arriving at ACT Supreme Court on Friday (14 October). Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Ms Higgins was further pushed on her ability to recall exactly what happened that night as she had been intoxicated.

She said while she had a “level of recall”, some of it had been framed over time by media reports and recollections of others.

However, she was certain she remembered Mr Lehrmann saying “just be quiet or they won’t let you in” when they entered Parliament House.

She confirmed to Mr Whybrow she didn’t remember if she went willingly to the couch in Minister Reynolds’ office or was guided, and accepted she could have gone there herself.

However, when Mr Whybrow suggested she hadn’t seen Mr Lehrmann from the time they had entered Minister Reynolds’ suite until she woke up the next morning, Ms Higgins vehemently disagreed.

“He raped me,” she said.

“He was in there. He was violating me. He was in my body. I know it.”

Ms Higgins was also further questioned about doctors appointments she had booked but never attended.

She agreed she had told police she had medical tests done, even though she hadn’t.

“I had the intention … [but] going and confirming it with a health professional was a big f**king deal to me,” Ms Higgins said.

“I wasn’t perfect.”

READ ALSO Brittany Higgins details Parliament House staff culture, relationship with ‘territorial’ Bruce Lehrmann

Once the cross-examination with Mr Whybrow was over, Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC asked some follow-up questions.

One was about her previous comment that speaking to the police and the media about her alleged experience was about “targeting different issues”, and asked what they were.

Ms Higgins said speaking to police was about getting “this day in court” while the other was about exposing a culture in Parliament House which she claimed was “so rife, continues to be rife”.

“There are a dozen stories like mine,” she claimed.

Mr Drumgold also wanted Ms Higgins to explain further why she felt her job was on the line if she spoke with police.

“If I reported it and it became a media story prior to the election … if that leaked, that was the issue,” she said.

At the close of Ms Higgins’ evidence, Chief Justice Lucy McCallum reminded the jury not to engage with any news or conversation about the trial over the weekend, as it could impact their final verdict.

“Take this as an opportunity to have a social media detox and go bushwalking,” she said.

It is expected the Crown will call most of its remaining witnesses on Monday, and a final witness on Tuesday, before it rests its case.

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