16 May 2023

'It was Mr Drumgold who was hostile towards the police', Lehrmann defence lawyer told inquiry

| Lizzie Waymouth
Steven Whybrow at the Board of Inquiry

Bruce Lehrmann’s defence lawyer Steven Whybrow told the inquiry on Tuesday that the DPP had made a number of “pejorative” statements. Photo: Screenshot.

On the final day of the first module of the Board of Inquiry, Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyer Steven Whybrow SC suggested any disharmony between the police and Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC during the trial may have been fuelled by the DPP himself, rather than the police.

When asked whether his interactions with specific police officers in the Lehrmann case had led him to believe they harboured resentment towards the DPP, Mr Whybrow told the inquiry on Tuesday (16 May): “No, my impression … was the opposite. I don’t mean they were loving and kind. I meant my impression was it was Mr Drumgold who was hostile towards the police.”

He acknowledged that Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman had been “unhappy with various aspects of the trial”, evident in the comment he made to Mr Whybrow that “if the jury comes back with a guilty verdict, I’m resigning”, but dismissed the claim that any other police officers involved in the trial were resentful of Mr Drumgold, including Detective Superintendent Scott Moller.

READ ALSO ‘I was pissed off, I was angry’: Lehrmann’s lawyer responds to DPP’s claims of political interference and police misconduct

In earlier questioning last week, Mr Drumgold had said that there was an “absence of objectivity” among police, to the extent that they may have been “going to great lengths to feed inaccurate information” in the hope of “derailing” the trial. He told the inquiry that a document produced by DS Moller contained “gratuitous stereotyping-type assessments of credibility” and “pejorative” statements about Brittany Higgins.

However, Mr Whybrow used the same language to criticise the DPP on Tuesday, describing the comment Mr Drumgold made to him during a break in the trial that “any opinion by those boofheads [DI Boorman and DS Moller] about the strength of this case is not admissible” as “pejorative” and “an outburst”.

Mr Whybrow also called Mr Drumgold’s press statement of 2 December announcing the trial’s discontinuance “a pejorative stab at Mr Lehrmann unnecessarily”.

In the statement, the DPP said: “I formed the clear view that there was a reasonable prospect of conviction. That is a view I still hold today.”

He also described Ms Higgins’ “bravery, grace and dignity” in handling the trial and noted the “level of personal attack” she had faced.

Mr Whybrow told the inquiry on Monday he took issue with Mr Drumgold’s address. In further questioning on Tuesday, he maintained the belief that it was “an unnecessary statement that could only serve to be picked up and, with the imprimatur of the DPP, taken by people in the community to suggest that he had thought he was guilty”.

He was also critical in his statement and in questioning that he had asked Mr Drumgold on two occasions prior to the press conference to tell him what the speech would contain, but he declined to answer.

Mr Drumgold’s lawyer Mark Tedeschi KC argued that it was to be expected that the prosecution would hold such views and believe there was a reasonable prospect of conviction, and that it was necessary for the community to understand the reasoning behind the decision to discontinue the trial, particularly as this was a decision made by the DPP behind closed doors.

READ ALSO ‘Failing on the part of the DPP’: Lisa Wilkinson’s lawyer told inquiry advice on Logies speech was ‘misleading’

While he acknowledged that the community was entitled to know why the trial was being discontinued, Mr Whybrow believed that the DPP’s statement was unnecessary.

“What he said was, and remained, his personal subjective view … in circumstances where I’d asked him twice what he was going to say. I still maintain he did not need to say that in order to properly explain to the community the reasons why this was not going to be a retrial,” Mr Whybrow said.

When asked by Mr Tedeschi whether it was reasonable that Mr Drumgold would have concerns for Ms Higgins’ welfare, he acknowledged that “as a human being, he should”. In response to whether the DPP had “considerable sympathy” for the complainant’s suffering, Mr Whybrow said he “was concerned that he had aligned himself with Ms Higgins”. However, he acknowledged he did have a similar degree of sympathy for Mr Lehrmann.

The Board of Inquiry will resume on Monday (22 May).

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.