Bruce Lehrmann’s former lawyer gave what he called a “somewhat inappropriate” response in a discussion with Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold, according to a statement made public as part of the Board of Inquiry into the ACT criminal justice system’s handling of the Lehrmann trial.
In his statement, lawyer John Korn wrote that he called Mr Drumgold to ask him to prevent Brittany Higgins from speaking at the National Press Club days before the event was due to take place.
Ms Higgins spoke at the National Press Club on 9 February 2022 alongside activist and sexual assault survivor Grace Tame on the need for societal and institutional change in the treatment of women.
After requesting that Mr Drumgold invite Ms Higgins not to appear, Mr Korn explained why he felt this way: “Mr Director, from what I understand, she will be standing on the podium speaking as a survivor of sexual assault, for a matter which has yet been determined to have taken place, in circumstances where my client denies that any sexual intercourse ever took place.”
“Oh no, no, no. That’s not the way I see it,” Mr Drumgold responded, in a tone that Mr Korn interpreted as “mocking” and felt was “very inappropriate”.
This prompted him to respond in a “somewhat inappropriate way”.
“Mr Director, I don’t give a f— how you see it, but every right-minded person in Australia, including me, would see it that way and she should not speak on that podium from that perspective,” Mr Korn said.
He asked Mr Drumgold a final time to consider inviting Ms Higgins not to speak, but he declined, adding that she “has been appropriately warned not to give any details of the offence”.
Ms Higgins’ National Press Club speech has since been removed from YouTube after Mr Lehrmann filed a defamation case against ABC for broadcasting the address. Around 127,000 people had viewed it before its removal. While Ms Higgins’ did not name her alleged attacker in her address, Mr Lehrmann claimed he was still identifiable.
In his statement, Mr Korn explained that the matter of the National Press Club appearance had “long concerned” him and was a “serious dereliction or serious lack of judgment on the part of the Director”.
“In light of the massive amount of publicity that the Lehrmann/Higgins matter had generated and the very active role that Ms Higgins had taken in going on the media … I believe that the Director had an absolute responsibility to ensure a fair trial,” he said.
The matter of Mr Korn’s statement has not yet been discussed by the Board of Inquiry.