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#AceNewsRoom With ‘Kindness & Wisdom’ Oct.09, 2022 @acenewsservices
#AceNewsDesk – Brittany Higgins’s story begins to be told during first week of Bruce Lehrmann’s rape trial – ABC News
Most people think they know the Brittany Higgins story.
The former Liberal Party staffer burst onto the public stage last year after her allegations that she was raped inside Parliament House were aired by News Corp journalist Samantha Maiden and then The Project host Lisa Wilkinson.
This week, the rubber hit the road, as the man accused of sexually assaulting Ms Higgins — her then colleague Bruce Lehrmann — went to trial in the ACT Supreme Court.
The 16 men and women sworn in to be jurors now have an unexpected front-row seat on one of Australia’s most absorbing criminal cases. Four are reserves, in case one of the 12 is unable to continue.
Defence lawyer Steven Whybrow labelled the earlier public reports a “trial by media”.
“No formal complaint had been made to police, and journalists around the country were being told the name of the alleged [offender] — not that that word [alleged] got much of a run at the time,” he told the jury.
The jury heard that Mr Lehrmann maintained there was no sexual activity between the pair when they went into Parliament after a night out drinking in March 2019.
A night of heavy drinking
The jury has already heard a basic outline of the case.
It began at a bar known as The Dock, in Kingston, a short distance from Parliament House, where both Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins worked for then government minister Linda Reynolds.
Security footage from the bar shows Ms Higgins consumed 11 drinks in four-and-a-half hours. She was, by her own calculation, more drunk than she had ever been in her life.
In the early hours of the morning, the pair ended up in a taxi together travelling to Parliament, where Mr Lehrmann said he needed to pick up documents.
Ms Higgins became tearful in the witness box as footage showed her swaying and struggling to put on her shoes, and eventually walking into Parliament in bare feet.
She gave a graphic account of being raped on a couch in Senator Reynolds’s office, and not waking again until the morning.
Footage from later shows Mr Lehrmann walking out of the building alone.
Hesitant disclosures and political pressure
The defence will continue to cross-examine Brittany Higgins next week.(AAP: Lukas Coch)none
Australian Capital Territory’s director of public prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, and the defence’s Mr Whybrow spent the week drawing out details of the circumstances before and after the alleged assault.
Among the matters that stood out was Ms Higgins’s white cocktail dress, which she wore on the night of the alleged assault.
She told the court she had put it in a plastic bag and left it under her bed for six months — before her initial decision not to make a formal complaint — then washed and wore it one more time.
However, the court then heard she had worn the dress less than two months later.
She later handed the dress to police, and photos of it were shown to the jury.
Ms Higgins explained why she backed away from following through her initial report of the assault to police, against a backdrop of an intensely political environment, as an election loomed amid accusations of misbehaviour in Parliament.
She repeatedly said she feared she would lose her job if she went ahead with her complaint.
Ms Higgins eventually made a formal report to police in February 2021.
Complicated story told under intense scrutiny
However, most attention this week was on the immediate aftermath of the alleged assault.The ACT Supreme Court trial is likely to last four to six weeks.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)none
Mr Whybrow queried Ms Higgins’s account that the first person she had told was Senator Reynolds’ chief of staff, Fiona Brown, three days after the alleged rape.
Ms Brown had been asked why Ms Higgins had breached security by entering the building late at night.
“We didn’t say the rape word, as I have referred to before,” Ms Higgins said, but she denied that she had actually revealed the allegation in a later meeting.
Ms Higgins was also asked why she did not see a doctor about the assault, even though she asked for time off to do that.
“You told Fiona Brown that you had to go to the doctor to bolster your claims that something non-consensual had happened,” Mr Whybrow said.
However, Ms Higgins rejected his suggestion.
“Nothing that you are saying right now is true and it’s deeply insulting,” she said.
The court was told other revelations, including that Ms Higgins covertly recorded her conversations with two people in 2021, including her new boss, cabinet minister Michaelia Cash.
Ms Higgins said she sent one recording to a journalist and another to a friend for safekeeping, to protect her records against interference.
One of the curious facts to emerge was that Ms Higgins had Wilkinson’s husband, Peter FitzSimons, to help her land a book offer worth $325,000.
She told the court she had always wanted to write a book and had chapters planned out.
As the week advanced, the jury was shown a complicated story, with multiple characters, all under the glare of intense media scrutiny.
On the trial’s first day, Chief Justice Lucy McCallum warned the jurors to ignore the media, past and present.
“The evidence in the trial is not what you have read before today or seen on television.”
She told the 10 women and six men the evidence would only be what they saw and heard in court.
The trial continues.
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