Read texts ex-minister Linda Reynolds sent Bruce Lehrmann's lawyer in Brittany Higgins rape trial

Linda Reynolds is pictured outside court on Monday

Former Defense Secretary Linda Reynolds texted Bruce Lehrmann’s defense attorney asking for transcripts of Brittany Higgins’ cross-examination, a court has heard.

Ms Reynolds was grilled by prosecutor Shane Drumgold SC during Ms Higgins’ rape case against Lehrmann in the ACT Supreme Court on Monday.

The former Liberal staffer claims she was sexually assaulted by Lehrmann, her former colleague, inside Ms Reynolds’ parliamentary office in Canberra in March 2019. He has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of non-consensual sexual intercourse.

In a tense moment in court, Drumgold asked Ms Reynolds if she had tried to obtain information about Ms Higgins’ trial by seeking transcripts of the evidence from defense barrister Steven Whybrow.

Drumgold told the court that Ms Reynolds sent the first message to Mr Whybrow on October 6 at 6pm. 4.27pm – just half an hour after Ms Higgins finished her first day of cross-examination.

The message read: ‘Hi, do you have the daily statements? If so, are you able to provide my lawyer?’

She sent another text a minute later: ‘If you also have texts between Brittany and Nicky, they could be revealing.’

‘Nicky’ refers to Nicole Hamar, who was called to the witness stand last week.

Ms Reynolds – who recently returned from a trip to Rwanda – was called as a witness for the prosecution, but she admitted texting the defense barrister during cross-examination by Ms Higgins in October.

She was also asked why her boyfriend sat in the back of the courtroom during the first week of the trial.

Brittany Higgins (pictured outside court) claims Bruce Lehrmann raped her in Linda Reynolds’ parliamentary office in Canberra in 2019

When Mr Drumgold asked why she thought it was appropriate to text the defence, Reynolds said she was ‘curious to know what had been said’ but noted that her lawyer then told her that it ‘wasn’t appropriate’.

The former defense minister also told the court that she believed an exchange of messages between Ms Higgins and Ms Hamar could “shed some light” on the allegations.

Drumgold then accused her of ‘attempting to train the cross-examination’ and asked what her motive was.

Mrs Reynolds replied: ‘That’s not what I was trying to do.’

The prosecutor told her: ‘You warn the defense lawyer two hours into the cross-examination. You are splashing yourself by trying to help cross-examine.’

The former defense secretary said: ‘I haven’t been through his process before.

‘Going through it mentally, I’ve done nothing but – for the last 18 months – go through all this… It seemed appropriate.

Drumgold said: ‘You’re in Rwanda, you’re at a conference and you’re texting the defense lawyer and giving him ideas on what to cross-examine. Don’t you have better things to do in Rwanda?’

Mrs. Reynolds replied: “Well, as a witness in this case … absolutely I was interested in the case.”

When asked if her partner had sat at the back of the courtroom during Ms Higgins’ evidence, Ms Reynolds agreed.

However, she told the court that he had not reported back to her.

“My lawyer was very clear with him not to discuss it with me,” she said.

Former Liberal activist Bruce Lehrmann arrives at the ACT Supreme Court in Canberra on Monday, where he is charged

When Mr Drumgold told Ms Reynolds she was politically invested in the case in April 2019, Ms Reynolds said: ‘Absolutely not. I categorically reject that claim.’

Drumgold then told Ms Reynolds that her ‘dominant concern’ amid Ms Higgins’ claims was the outcome of the election, which was called for May 18, 2019.

Ms Reynolds told the prosecutor she ‘categorically rejects’ this concern.

Earlier on Monday, Ms Reynolds told the court she had a meeting with Ms Higgins more than a week after the alleged rape, where staff said she ‘couldn’t remember what happened’.

The meeting was held in the same office where Ms Higgins claims Mr Lehrmann allegedly raped her, but Ms Reynolds told the court she did not know about the assault allegations at the time.

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Ms Reynolds said she believed Ms Higgins was extremely upset by the security breach triggered when she and Mr Lehrmann ended up inside Parliament Buildings on March 23, 2019.

Ms Reynolds said she did not ask her former chief of staff, Fiona Brown, whether the security breach was the only reason Ms Higgins was so upset.

When Ms Higgins entered her office, Ms Reynolds recalled: ‘I explained what the meeting was about … the security breach.

‘I asked Mrs Higgins about the incident and she was very apologetic and embarrassed and she apologised.

Former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins and partner David Sharaz arrive at the ACT Supreme Court in Canberra

‘She also indicated that she knew it wasn’t the right thing to do and she didn’t want to lose her job.’

She explained that Mrs Higgins’ job was never at risk.

Ms Reynolds said Ms Higgins “explained in more detail during the discussion that she was ‘very drunk and could not remember what happened.’

‘She said she woke up the next morning and got dressed. It was at that time she was a bit more upset and at that time I thought I am not the right person to talk.

‘If she can’t remember what happened, she’s distraught and getting dressed, I told her – I’m not the person to be having this conversation.

‘I knew we had an (Australian Federal Police agent) in the building so I suggested to her that she would rather have this conversation with someone more qualified.’

Speaking about what she knew about Ms Higgins’ claims in the weeks after the alleged assault, Ms Reynolds told the court she learned of most of the allegations on February 15, 2019 – when The Project aired and a News Corp article was published.

“I learned a lot of information about it because I hadn’t had any information before – the cleaning, the security guards, so it was all new information to me,” she told the court.

She also told the court she did not know Mrs Higgins slept overnight in her office.

When asked if there was any “animosity” when Ms Higgins traveled to Ms Cash’s office, Ms Reynolds said there was not. “She gave me a beautiful big bunch of flowers.”

Ms Reynolds also maintained she told Ms Higgins she would be supported if she chose to make a formal statement to police about her allegations.

Earlier on Monday, Senator Michaelia Cash – the former staffer’s ex-boss – told the court that Ms Reynolds’ office had received a media inquiry about Ms Higgins in October 2019.

Ms Higgins had worked for both politicians that year – first for the defense industry minister, Ms Reynolds, as an assistant media adviser until she moved to Ms Cash’s office that year.

Former Attorney General Michaelia Cash (pictured with Ms Higgins) was one of the first witnesses in court on Monday

Ms Cash told the court Ms Higgins was concerned about the issue of whether the security breach, in March 2019, would be made public because the media inquiry was from a reporter from the Canberra Times.

“She was embarrassed because it was about herself and a safety issue,” Cash said.

‘She and another employee returned to the office after drinking … They were potentially intoxicated.

‘Ms Higgins fell asleep on the sofa and I believe security found her the next day.’

Ms. Cash denied knowledge of sexual assault allegations prior to February 5, 2021.

Prosecutor Shane Drumgold grilled Senator Cash about whether or not she knew about the alleged rape, telling her she denied any knowledge “because it would be politically embarrassing”.

Senator Cash replied: ‘Absolutely not … I don’t understand the political connection to this.’

Drumgold continued: “I suggest, as early as October 2019, that Ms. Higgins had a conversation about the sexual element of what she said happened to her in Senator Reynolds’ office.”

Mrs Cash replied: ‘Not a sexual element. The first time she mentioned it was in a conversation on 5 February 2021.’

The senator told the court that the only time she spoke to Ms Higgins on the evening of March 22, 2019, was in October 2019 – explaining that the conversation was only about the security breach.

Ms Cash said the only other time they spoke about the alleged assault was on February 5, 2021 – a week after Ms Higgins tendered her resignation.

The trial continues.

Jacky

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