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#AceNewsRoom With ‘Kindness & Wisdom’ Oct.04, 2022 @acenewsservices
#AceNewsDesk – A former Liberal Party staffer told police she cried as she was allegedly raped in Parliament House and said no at least half a dozen times.
The ACT Supreme Court heard today a recording of Brittany Higgins’s police interview from February 2021, as she recounted the alleged assault that took place almost two years earlier.
The trial of her alleged rapist Bruce Lehrmann began today and is expected to run for four to six weeks.
Mr Lehrmann, who was also a Liberal staffer at the time of the alleged offence, has pleaded not guilty, and has said he did not have sex with his then colleague Ms Higgins.
Ms Higgins, who watched today’s proceedings from a separate room via a video link, was visibly upset after her interview was played to the jury.
During the 2021 interview, she told police that she had felt “stressed, and scared and embarrassed” as she left Parliament House the morning after the alleged offence.
She said she had gone to the building with Mr Lehrmann after a night of heavy drinking, fell asleep on a couch, and woke to find him having sex with her.
Ms Higgins said she had not refused Mr Lehrmann’s request that they go to Parliament House, where they worked, late at night, as it felt safe.
“I was really open to [the] suggestion … It didn’t seem inconceivable to go to Parliament,” she told police.
“It felt like a safe space for me, and I didn’t say no to going to Parliament.”
Ms. Higgins told police that she remembered saying no as Mr. Lehrmann allegedly raped her.
“I said no, at least half a dozen times. He did not stop, he kept going,” she said in the police interview.
“To my knowledge, he finished, but I’m not exactly sure. I don’t know if he used a condom, I don’t remember.”
Defence says accused has faced ‘trial by media’
Brittany Higgins arrives at court for the first day of Mr Lehrmann’s trial.(ABC News: Donal Sheil)none
Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers argued the defendant had faced a “trial by media” since Ms Higgins’s allegations were made public last year.
His barrister, Steve Whybrow, urged the 16 jurors to focus on the facts of the case.
No formal complaint had been made to police, and journalists around the country were being told the name of the alleged — not that that word got much of a run at the time,” he told the jury.
Mr Whybrow also said the defence would discuss “holes” in the case against Mr Lehrmann, and question what prompted Ms Higgins to eventually air her allegation.
He noted Ms Higgins had made a formal police complaint after speaking to the media.
“It was too good a story, and too good an opportunity to give up, by critically assessing her allegations or fact-checking them,” Mr Whybrow said.
Jurors warned to ignore media reports
Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers say their client has been subject to an unfair trial by media.(ABC News: Donal Sheil)none
Earlier in the hearing, ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold told the jury the pair had arrived at Parliament House after Mr Lehrmann told Ms Higgins he needed to pick something up for work.
However, Mr Drumgold noted that Mr Lehrmann had given multiple reasons to police and others for going to Parliament House.
The prosecutor said the defendant told police he had to return to the building to collect the keys to his apartment, but also to do work.
And when Mr Lehrmann’s boss — the chief of staff to then home affairs minister Linda Reynolds — asked him why he had returned to Parliament House, he allegedly told her he had gone back to drink whisky.
A larger than usual jury of 10 women and six men was selected for the trial this morning………………… Four jurors are reserved; only 12 will be responsible for reaching a verdict.
Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said the number of jurors had been increased for this trial “to guard against the risk of losing jurors along the way”.
She told the jurors they would need to decide whether sexual intercourse happened and whether there was consent.
She also warned them to ignore all media coverage of the case.
“If you’ve read or heard any of the publicity around this case, it’s very important that you put it out of your mind,” Chief Justice McCallum said.
“The evidence in the trial is not what you read before today or [what] you saw on television.”
The case continues.
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