Australia’s top police officer has criticized the decision to clear the federal parliamentary suite where Brittany Higgins claimed she was raped by fellow politician Bruce Lehrmann.
Former AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin wrote to the Department for Parliamentary Services complaining that it was “unacceptable” not to inform police that the suite was to be cleaned.
“AFP’s inclusion in any initial response to the incident could have resulted in earlier notification of an alleged criminal offence, more appropriate management of the welfare of alleged victims, and better scene management,” Colvin wrote.
‘It is not clear why AFP was not notified at the time of the incident. And I hold that this is unacceptable.
Australia’s top police officer has criticized the decision to clear the federal parliamentary suite where Brittany Higgins claimed she was raped by fellow politician Bruce Lehrmann. Ms Higgins appears on CCTV walking towards Parliament House
Former AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin (above) wrote to the Department for Parliamentary Services complaining that failure to inform police that Senator Linda Reynolds’ office was going to be cleaned out was “unacceptable”.
The letter, obtained by news.com.auit was provided to an investigation by former intelligence inspector general Vivienne Thom, according to the news website.
It was also revealed that former Parliament House security director Peter Butler told police he disagreed with the decision to clean the suite and believed an incident report he wrote had been tampered with.
The appearance of Mr. Colvin’s letter follows the resurfacing of court testimony from a cleaner that contradicted persistent rumors that Senator Linda Reynolds’ office was steam cleaned as part of a cover-up.
Mr. Lehrmann has always denied raping Ms. Higgins and a charge of sexual intercourse without consent was dropped after jury misconduct led to the cancellation of his trial.
Carlos Ramos was asked to clean Senator Reynolds’ office on March 23, 2019, after Parliament Security Staff officials alerted a Finance Department official that two workers had found Ms. Higgins sleeping on the sofa.
Former Parliament House security director Peter Butler told police he disagreed with the decision to clean the suite (above) and believed an incident report he wrote had been tampered with.
Ms Higgins did not make public allegations of assault until much later and investigations by Ms Thom and the AFP found there was no reason to suspect one at the time.
However, late-night drinks in Parliamentary offices are not uncommon in Canberra, and special cleanups are sometimes ordered to ensure MPs do not reach the remains of a party.
When Mr. Ramos arrived to complete the cleaning, expecting a job of two hours or more, he found the room so tidy that he called his boss, who then contacted security to ensure they had the correct room.
“In my opinion, this looks like a normal cleaning,” Ramos, whose first language is Spanish, told the ACT Supreme Court that he had told his supervisor.
Ramos testified on October 11 of last year that he spent 30 minutes doing a routine cleaning of the already cleaned room, a fact that columnist Janet Albrechtsen noted in the aussie it had been overlooked by the media.
His testimony was lost in the multitude of documents that finally became available when a suppression order was lifted.
Brittany Higgins (pictured) alleged she was raped in the office of then Defense Minister Linda Reynolds at Parliament House in 2019
The order had been in place until Ms Higgins completed her cross-examination, which was fragmented over mental health issues.
Asked by prosecutor Shane Drumgold if he had cleaned the sofa where Higgins alleges she was raped, Ramos said he cleaned it with a leather cleaner.
‘Did you put a chemical on a cloth and wipe it (the sofa)?’ asked Drumgold.
Ramos: “Yes, yes.”
On cross-examination, Ramos told defense attorney Katrina Musgrove: “It was totally a routine cleaning.”
Her testimony disproves the claim that the sofa in Ms Reynolds’ office had been thoroughly steam cleaned in the hours after the alleged sexual assault.
Clean steam claim suggesting the scene might have been ‘jammed’ appeared on articles that broke history and has been repeated countless times.
A court heard that it was not uncommon for ministers’ offices to be cleaned if employees had been drinking the night before so as not to make a mess (Senator Linda Reynolds pictured)
Albrechtsen noted that the claim appeared to come from a diary note by Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner for national security Leanne Close about a conversation she had with AFP deputy commissioner Lesa Gale.
The note said that Gale told him that “office staff have steam-cleaned the lounge.”
The claim was repeated months later in an anonymous letter to the late Senator Kimberling Kitching.
On his cross-examination, Mr. Ramos was also asked if he needed to clean the bathroom where Ms. Higgins said she had vomited.
‘Not really…like the bathroom hadn’t been used recently.’
He said there didn’t seem to be any used towels, the bathroom wasn’t dirty, and there were no odors.
‘Didn’t the toilet seat underneath need to be cleaned?’ Musgrove asked.
‘Did not answer.
Ms Higgins is seen on CCTV footage passing through Parliament House security on the night she alleges she was raped in Ms Reynolds’ parliamentary office. Lehrmann has always denied his accusation
ACT director of public prosecution Shane Drumgold, who handled the Higgins case, is on leave until August 30. Anthony Williamson SC is acting in the role.
ACT Premier Andrew Barr is awaiting a report due this month following an independent inquiry into how the justice system handled Lehrmann’s criminal trial.
The independent inquiry has been led by former Queensland High Court Justice Walter Sofronoff.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Mr Lehrmann over concerns about the impact of a second trial on Ms Higgins’ mental health after the first trial was aborted.