A Crown prosecutor has told a jury that Bruce Lehrmann took Brittany Higgins back to Parliament House the night he allegedly raped her because ‘it was the most convenient place to get her drunk and confused’.
Shane Drumgold gave his closing statements in the ACT Supreme Court case against the former Liberal Party staffer, telling the jury there were inconsistencies in Lehrmann’s story and that anything Ms Higgins did after the night of the alleged assault played no part in her credibility.
Ms Higgins, also a former Liberal staffer, claims Lehrmann raped her in former Defense Minister Linda Reynolds’ parliamentary office in the early hours of March 23, 2019, after a night out in Canberra.
He has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of intercourse without consent.
Crown prosecutor Shane Drumgold began his closing arguments by telling the jury the case was not about ‘political movements, political parties and it’s not about workplace cultures’.
Brittany Higgins (pictured) claims her former colleague Bruce Lehrmann raped her in former Defense Secretary Linda Reynolds’ parliamentary office in March 2019.
Former Attorney General Michaelia Cash (pictured with Ms Higgins) gave evidence at the trial
FIVE QUESTIONS THE PROSECUTOR TOOK THE JURY TO CONSIDER
During his closing arguments on Tuesday, Mr Drumgold, the jury will consider five questions:
1. Was Lehrmann attracted to Higgins?
2. Why did he go to Parliament House?
3. Did he have sex with Higgins?
4. Did Higgins consent?
5. Was Lehrmann reckless as to whether Higgins consented?
‘[The case is not about] whether young people, regardless of gender, have the right to drink what they choose or to be safe. Or whether Ms Higgins likes Linda Reynolds or whether the Houses of Parliament responded adequately,” he said.
‘This case is certainly not about other women’s experiences in parliament or the “me too” movement, media interviews or book deals.’
Drumgold said the case was about “what happened on a sofa in a room” on March 23, 2019 – between the time Ms Higgins and Lehrmann entered Parliament at 01.48, and when the accused left alone at 02.31.
He told the jury that Lehrmann gave various reasons for going back to Parliament House on the night of the alleged rape, but said he rejected all reasons – ‘except possibly drinking alcohol and getting the intoxicated and vulnerable complainant alone in a room’.
“It was the most convenient place to get her drunk and confused… in the hope that she wouldn’t resist and not remember,” he said.
Drumgold questioned why Lehrmann would have left his keys, documents and security pass at work before going out drinking on a Friday night, knowing he would only have to return and retrieve them late at night.
Lehrmann said he had to go to Parliament House to collect his keys, which he said was “normal practice”. He added that he just wanted to leave them on his desk so he wouldn’t have a lot of stuff in his pockets, he told the jury.
‘Ask yourself, how would he get his keys if he left his passport there? He agreed he didn’t have his passport on him – it would force him to log in to get his keys just to go home.’
He also questioned why Lehrmann would return to Parliament to tabbed Question Time when Question Time was not due to take place the following week – “why not wait until Monday?”
Crown prosecutor Shane Drumgold began his closing arguments by telling the jury the case was not about ‘political movements, political parties and it’s not about workplace cultures’. Rather, he said it was about what happened in Linda Reynolds’ office early on March 23, 2019.
The rape is said to have taken place in Senator Linda Reynolds’ office in Parliament House
Drumgold said Lehrmann claimed in his interview with the Federal Police that there was no alcohol in the office because Ms Reynolds was new to the defense portfolio and it had not yet been set up.
However, his former colleague Nicole Hamar told the court last week that she worked with Lehrmann in Internal Affairs and he had a significant amount of alcohol in his office.
The prosecution said it was ‘unlikely that he would throw away a significant amount of alcohol because he was moving offices’.
Drumgold also brought up the timing of Lehrmann’s departure from Parliament House – he said the accused left the minister’s suite because he had received a notification that an Uber had arrived.
Bruce Lehrmann is pictured arriving at the ACT Supreme Court on Tuesday morning. He has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Ms Higgins
But, the prosecutor said, security footage and phone records showed the Uber did not arrive for at least three minutes after he left Parliament House.
Drumgold said Lehrmann had missed six phone calls from his girlfriend the night of the alleged assault, with the accused telling police he missed the calls because his phone is usually on silent.
But, the prosecutor said, Lehrmann had looked at his phone to call Uber immediately after.
Drumgold told the jury anything Mrs Higgins said or did after the alleged assault had no bearing on her credibility and asked them to ‘stand back’ and consider why Mrs Higgins would risk her ‘dream job’ over a hoax.
“This is a young lady in the middle of powerful political forces and we say she was right to be cautious,” he said.
He suggested to the jury that Ms Higgins was an “incredibly” credible witness.
“We have a very intoxicated woman who wakes up in the morning and reconstructs events – she said she wasn’t wearing the dress because he didn’t remember putting it back on,” he said.
‘I realize that Mrs Higgins is an incredibly credible witness. When she couldn’t remember anything, she said so.
‘When security guard Nikola Anderson called her, she said she could not remember that event. Not knowing an answer, she said she couldn’t remember.
‘Ms Hggins did not appear to embellish her account of rape at all. She said it lasted 2-3 minutes after she woke up in pain.’
He asked the jury to remember Ms Higgins’ reaction when Lehrmann’s defense lawyer Steven Whybrow told her there was no sexual assault.
“She said “He was in my body. He physically abused me, I know,” he said.
Drumgold also asked the jury to consider that Ms Higgins’ recollection of events may not be accurate because she had been drunk and spent the night together.
But he suggested that didn’t mean her claims weren’t correct.
“When you remember two-year-old conversations, you’d be suspicious if every word matched the letter,” Mr Drumgold said.
He also referred to inconsistencies over a photograph of a bruise on Ms Higgins’ leg – she told the court she believed the bruise was the result of the alleged assault.
However, a digital forensics investigator told the court that the image had no metadata, place or time.
‘Brittany only assumed the bruise was sustained during sex, she’s not saying it definitely did. It may actually have been maintained during the fall at (nightclub) 88 mph for all we know, but she saw the bruise and made that conclusion,” Drumgold told the jury.
‘I ask you this, remember that there is no blueprint or textbook response for a victim of sexual assault to behave in the days, weeks and months afterwards.
‘Trauma affects everyone differently. There is no typical way – one person would not behave in the same way at subsequent events.’
He said “there are strong political aspects to this case” and referred to Ms Higgins’ former boss Fiona Brown – who was then chief of staff to Senator Reynolds – becoming emotional in court over a text she received from Ms Higgins.
“Fiona Brown was clearly emotionally invested to the point where her emotions got the better of her,” Drumgold told the jury.
‘Brittany Higgins was one of many low-level employees. Why would she be so emotionally invested in a text thanking her? We don’t know why, but she was clearly emotionally invested in that question, but not in other questions she was asked.’