Bruce Lehrmann’s criminal defense attorney warned the lead prosecutor in the rape trial of the former Liberal staffer not to let Brittany Higgins address the national Press Club in a heated phone conversation, according to documents released by an investigation.
The contents of the appeal can now be revealed in bombshell files released this week by a committee of inquiry investigating the way the jury trial of Mr Lehrmann was handled in October last year.
A statement from Mr Lehrmann’s former attorney, John Korn, was included in the set of documents, detailing a telephone conversation he allegedly had with ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold SC, on February 7, 2022 .
The call, Mr Korn claimed, took place two days before Ms Higgins delivered her speech alongside former Australian of the Year and sexual assault survivor Grace Tame.
At the time, Mr Lehrmann had been charged with allegations that he raped Ms Higgins in Parliament House after a night out in 2019. He has always maintained his innocence.
During her speech she claimed: ‘I was raped on a couch in what I thought was the safest and most secure building in Australia’.
Brittany Higgins (left) accused Bruce Lehrmann of raping her in Parliament House. He denies the allegations
In his statement, Mr Korn claimed to have telephoned Mr Drumgold and warned him not to allow Ms Higgins to give the address as the charges had yet to be adjudicated by the ACT High Court.
During the telephone conversation, Mr. Korn said, “Mr. Director, does the executive office think it would be appropriate to invite Ms. Higgins not to speak on stage this week?”
According to Mr. Korn, the prosecutor replied, “No, why would we do that?”
Mr Korn said: ‘From my understanding she will be on stage as a survivor of a sexual assault, for a case not yet established to have taken place, in circumstances where my client denies that there was ever any intercourse occurred. place.’
Mr. Korn remembered Mr. Drumgold saying, “Oh no no no, I don’t see it that way.”
In his statement, the lawyer noted his growing frustration and said: “Mr Director, I don’t care how you see it, but any sane person in Australia, myself included, would see it that way and from that perspective they wouldn’t that platform should speak.’
Mr Korn claimed the prosecution said he had no intention of stopping Ms Higgins from speaking. Mr Drumgold is said to have said: ‘She has been duly warned not to give details of the crime.’
The speech eventually led to Mr. Lehrmann suing the ABC for libel. He claims the broadcaster should have edited the allegations against him before it aired.
He was not named in the address, but claims he was identifiable because his name and photo made national headlines when he was charged with sexual assault over Ms Higgins’ allegations in August 2021 – six months before the press club speech.
The defamation trial will take place in Federal Court later in 2023.
The Press Club speech eventually led to Mr. Lehrmann suing the ABC for libel. He claims the broadcaster should have edited the allegations against him before it aired. Pictured: Mrs. Higgins is pictured on stage during the speech
ACT DPP Shane Drumgold (pictured outside the inquest on Wednesday) is under investigation at trial
THE HEATED TELEPHONE CALL, ACCORDING TO JOHN KORN
Mr. Korn: “Good morning Mr. Director, this is John Korn.”
Mr. Drumgold: “Good morning, John.”
Mr. Korn: “Mr. Director, does the Executive Office think it would be appropriate to invite Ms. Higgins not to speak on stage this week?”
Mr Drumgold: ‘No, why should we?’
Mr Korn: ‘From what I understand she will be on stage as a survivor of a sexual assault survivor, for a case not yet established to have occurred, in circumstances where my client denies that there was sexual intercourse has ever taken place.’
Mr Drumgold: ‘Oh no no no, I don’t see it that way.’
Mr Korn: ‘Mr Director, I don’t care how you see it, but any sane person in Australia, including me, would see it that way and she shouldn’t be speaking on that stage from that perspective. ‘
Mr Drumgold: ‘No, I don’t suggest that. She has been appropriately warned not to give details of the crime.”
Mr. Korn: “Thank you, Mr. Director.”
At the inquiry on Wednesday, Mr Drumgold was heavily questioned by Erin Longbottom, the counsel assisting the inquiry.
He told the inquiry he regretted making personal comments about Ms Higgins to the media after dropping the case in December last year.
The first criminal case was dropped due to misconduct by a juror. A new trial was scheduled but charges against Mr Lehrmann were dropped in full on December 1 due to concerns over Ms Higgins’ mental health.
Mr Drumgold stood before camera crews on 2 December to announce that there would be no new trial – at the very end of the speech he added: ‘Ms Higgins has had to deal with the level of personal attacks I have seen in more than 20 years have not seen this work.
“She did so with courage, grace and dignity. And I hope this ends now.’
During the investigation on Wednesday, the prosecutor told the investigation that those words were “burned into my memory.”
When Mrs. Lubbermans asked why those rules were burned into his head, he explained: ‘I probably shouldn’t have done it’.
“It was naive on my part that it would have any benefit.”
Mr Drumgold explained that he made the statements because he wanted public interest in Ms Higgins to diminish, but it didn’t happen that way.
“I knew this decision (to end the process) would affect her state of mind and I was really just trying to lighten the burden on her,” he said.
Mrs. Lubbermans then asked if he was thinking of Mr. Lehrmann, who has never been convicted and is entitled to the presumption of innocence.
“I am sympathetic to all parties,” he said.
“This case has no winners and losers – only losers and losers, and for me a complainant (Mrs Higgins) was in a very vulnerable position and I have evidence of that vulnerable position.”
Mrs. Longbottom asked again, “Have you turned your mind to the impact this might have had on Mr. Lehrmann?”
Mr. Drumgold replied, “Perhaps not as much as I should have.”
The charges against Bruce Lehrmann (pictured, center) were dropped in December
Earlier in the day, Mr. Drumgold is also concerned about a “political conspiracy” to drop the case altogether.
He told the inquiry that the federal government was involved “early” in the case and Ms. Higgins was concerned about political interference in the case.
He said he was concerned about “strange occurrences” in the course of the investigation and trial that led him to believe there was a greater stake in the prosecution’s failure.
“Some of the questions that were on my mind, hypothetically, were, was this a minister who, through the Federal (Police) Commissioner, was pressuring ACT Policing to make a case go away,” said Mr Drumgold.
“I thought the plan would have been if (police) can convince me to give them the imprimatur not to press charges then a political issue would disappear was my first suspicion.
“As time went on, I felt their interests aligned with a failed prosecution, that was my fear.”
Asked if he thought there was a political conspiracy to prevent the trial from going ahead, Mr Drumgold said there were ‘enough incidents to make it possible, if not likely’.
The investigation continues.