Brittany Higgins doesn’t know what actually happened the night she claims she was raped by former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann, his lawyer has told a jury.
Defense lawyer Steven Whybrow gave his closing arguments in Lehrmann’s high-profile rape case this afternoon, saying the burden of proof was on the prosecution.
Ms Higgins claims her then colleague 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.
Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to a charge of intercourse without consent.
Whybrow told the jury that the prosecution could not prove that any rape took place.
‘We can sum up – in the kindest way to Mrs Higgins, without fines of deception or dishonesty or secondary gain – and just say she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know what happened, he said.
“We cannot convince ourselves that she knew what happened.”
He told the jury that if Lehrmann was guilty it would have been ‘about the dumbest thing you could say’ that he told his former boss Fiona Brown he was going to the office to drink whiskey.
Ms Higgins (pictured) claims Bruce Lehrmann raped her in Parliament House in 2019
Defense attorney Steven Whybrow told the jury there was no evidence Brittany Higgins’ job was in jeopardy because of her rape allegations. Mrs Higgins is pictured outside court on Friday.
‘You would say you came back to work. But he told Mrs Brown – she was ready to have him marched out – that he was coming back to drink, not to work.
‘Are you satisfied that this is something he would have said [if he was guilty of rape]?’
Mr. Whybrow took a swipe at the prosecution and suggestions the jury had to consider whether Ms Higgins made her case.
“The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” he told the jury.
‘It’s not about whether she made it up – it’s not about whether I’ve convinced you that she made it up.’
He also said the prosecution’s idea of ’corroborative’ evidence was limited to Ms Higgins’ mother and former colleague, Nikita Irvine, telling the court she appeared upset and ‘broken’ and that her version of events was true, because she told people.
Mr. Whybrow said that’s not what corroborating evidence is.
“To some degree it’s pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps,” he told the jury.
‘If you tell 100 people that something happened, it doesn’t make it true if the underlying thing isn’t accurate. You have to scrutinize her evidence.’
Bruce Lehrmann is pictured (right) arriving at the ACT Supreme Court on Tuesday. He has denied raping Brittany Higgins and pleads not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent
Mr. Whybrow suggested to the jury that Ms Higgins had a “motive to make a false allegation” to save her job.
‘It was her dream job. It wasn’t to work for Reynolds, it was to work in Parliament, he said.
‘This is an explanation for what she did. You can ultimately reject it.
‘I offer you a possible explanation. But if you reject it, then the prosecution is no further ahead.’
The defense barrister also questioned Ms Higgins’ credibility when she was asked “tough” questions.
‘When a difficult question is asked, [she] saying: “I was traumatised, I couldn’t get out of bed, you don’t know what trauma is like”, he told the jury.
“You might think those might be perfectly valid responses and you think that’s fair enough, or they’re talking points that she spewed out when the going got tough.”
Sir. Whybrow then referred to how Ms Higgins deleted text messages from her phone before handing them over to the police.
He told the jury she sent a message to a security guard at Parliament House at 1pm on 23 March 2019 – the same day she was allegedly raped – and asked if anyone had seen her inside Parliament House the night before.
Sir. Whybrow said a key piece of evidence was based on what a Parliament House cleaner, Carlos Ramos, said in the witness stand last week: ‘He thought it was a two to three hour job and thought there had been a party . .’
Bruce Lehrmann’s defense lawyer Steven Whybrow (pictured) made his closing arguments to the jury in the high-profile rape case on Tuesday afternoon
Mr. Whybrow said it wasn’t surprising because someone had been sleeping naked in the office, so it made sense that he could look for a condom.
“There was no steam cleaning – he wasn’t there to destroy evidence,” said Mr. Whybrow.
He also referred to the moment Mr Ramos said no towels had been used in the minister’s bathroom and the bathroom did not appear to have been used.
‘The cleaner wasn’t called in to destroy evidence, that’s probably the last part of this suggestion about political forces at play – I ask rhetorically, what are the political forces at play?’ he said.
Sir. Whybrow then showed the court CCTV footage of Ms Higgins and Lehrmann going through security at Parliament House to prove he did not have his keys on him as he claimed because he did not need to take them out of his pocket to leave through the X-ray machine.
The only thing he put in the safety tray was his phone. The footage showed the moment Mrs Higgins tried to put on her shoes and finally gave up.
Sir. Whybrow also claimed there was no “flirtatious or amorous” interaction at Canberra pub The Dock on the night of the alleged rape.
He said if there was, it would have been captured on CCTV and played in court.
“The assumption that he was her guardian, that he was responsible for her, is where we start to get into the presumption of guilt,” Mr. Whybrow.
He reviewed Lehrmann’s version of events: ‘He went down [to his office in parliament] and he’s started making some notes on a question time file about submarines after talking to people from the navy [at the pub earlier that day]then he’s missed six calls from his girlfriend, probably says some version of a four-letter word, calls an Uber, and leaves.
‘How does he know Mrs Higgins hasn’t already left? Why is it the only reasonable, rational conclusion that he knows she’s in the minister’s suite passed out in her sleep? My submission is that it is not.’
Whybrow also addressed the prosecutor’s claim that Lehrmann left the building in a “hurry” three minutes before his Uber arrived when he ordered the car, but later told police he left because his Uber was already there.
Sir. Whybrow asked the jury why that means Lehrmann is lying: ‘He probably knows it’s a three-minute walk’ from where he was. Is it a big lie?
‘That’s how weak the prosecution’s case is – they tell you everything he said is a lie.’