Brittany Higgins spoke to reporters, quit her ‘dream job’, secretly recorded a conversation with a federal minister and relaunched a police investigation into her alleged rape – all within 11 days, a court has heard.
Defense lawyer Steven Whybrow concluded the first part of his closing argument in Bruce Lehrmann’s high-profile sexual assault trial on Tuesday by providing the jury with a review of Ms Higgins’ actions in early 2021.
Ms Higgins claims her former 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. He is on trial in the ACT Supreme Court.
Mr. Whybrow relayed Ms Higgins’ timeline of events in sequential order for the jury – starting in January 2021, just weeks before her allegations were made public.
Brittany Higgins is pictured outside court in Canberra. She claims that Bruce Lehrmann raped her
On Tuesday, Lehrmann’s defense lawyer Steven Whybrow (pictured) gave the jury an overview of Ms Higgins’ actions in early 2021
‘She got involved with [News Corp journalist] Samantha Maiden in January,” he said.
‘So on 27 January 2021 she sits down for six hours with Lisa Wilkinson and there’s a recorded conversation.’
Sir. Whybrow said in court that Ms Higgins told Daniel Try, her chief of staff in Michaelia Cash’s office, on January 28 that she was at a psychologist’s appointment the day before – rather than being interviewed by Lisa Wilkinson.
On January 29, the court heard Ms Higgins resigned from her job as assistant media adviser to Senator Cash.
In February, she filmed her TV interview with Lisa Wilkinson for The Project.
On February 5, Mr. Whybrow told the court that Ms Higgins ‘recorded a conversation with Michaelia Cash – a federal minister – without her knowledge’.
He told the court that Ms Higgins sent the recording to reporters.
On February 6, Ms Higgins told Senior Constable Emma Frizzell that she wanted to reopen the investigation into her alleged assault.
Bruce Lehrmann (pictured outside court on Tuesday) has pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent
Whybrow told the jury she was reopening the case “so when this story comes out she can say there is a police investigation going on so you can accept her evidence”.
Chief Constable Frizzell told the court last week that she warned Ms Higgins that speaking to the media could jeopardize the investigation and any subsequent trial.
The chief constable told the court last week that she asked Ms Higgins to attend a formal interview on the same day but she declined.
On February 15, the News Corp story was published and Lisa Wilkinson’s interview went live.
Sir. Whybrow told the court Ms Higgins said: ”’I don’t know what’s going on, the reporters are fighting and this person wants a Walkley” – but she’s throwing other people under the bus.
‘What’s going on doesn’t suit her.’
Two news stories about Ms Higgins’ claims were published on 15 February 2021. One was a TV interview with The Project host Lisa Wilkinson. Ms Higgins is pictured with Wilkinson
The defense lawyer then brought up a timeline Ms Higgins told the court she created to give the police.
Ms Higgins said the timeline was never intended for media distribution, but said under cross-examination “my partner and I were inundated with media requests” after her allegations were published.
The court previously heard that her partner, David Sharaz, sent the dossier to a couple of journalists, but they later found out that the journalists distributed it widely.
Sir. Whybrow referenced the moment he asked Ms Higgins if the timeline had been set up for the media, to which she replied: I mean, in part, sure. Originally it was only made for the police, and then additions were made. So yes, in spirit.’
Earlier in the day, Mr. Whybrow told the jury that if Lehrmann was guilty, he would have told his former boss Fiona Brown that he went to the office to drink whiskey, “about the stupidest thing you could say”.
‘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]?’
Federal police warned Brittany Higgins that speaking to the media could jeopardize the trial of her alleged rapist, a court has heard
Sir. Whybrow referred the jury to Ms Higgins’ initial insistence that she had kept the dress she was allegedly raped in under her bed for around six months before washing it.
She later admitted she was wrong about that period when she showed the court a photo of her wearing the dress about two months after the night in question.
‘When she speaks to [police officer] Emma Frizzell on February 6, 2021 She asks about the dress and she says, “I’ve washed it once, but I haven’t worn it,” he said.
“But she knows she’s worn it again, and she knows she’s worn it again because she remembers it, or she’s seen a photograph of her wearing it again.
‘This is a central plank of whether you accept her evidence beyond doubt or whether she has said the first thing that comes to her mind.
‘Can you convict this man for something she says he did – there is no DNA, no medical evidence and she says things that suit her.’
He also suggested Ms Higgins not attending a doctor’s appointment was ‘a big deal’.
Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann is pictured outside the ACT Supreme Court in Canberra where he is facing charges
BRITTANY HIGGINS’ TIMELINE
During his closing statements on Tuesday, Lehrmann’s defense lawyer Steven Whybrow told the court about Ms Higgins’ ‘timeline’.
He told the jury that Ms Higgins constantly ‘puts the blame on someone else’ – which, he told the court, was particularly evident in the order in which her interviews and police statements unfolded in 2021.
January 27: Sat down for a six-hour interview with Lisa Wilkinson.
January 28:Told Daniel Try, her chief of staff in Michaelia Cash’s office, that she was at a psychologist’s interview the day before – instead of being interviewed by Lisa Wilkinson.
January 29: Ms. Higgins resigned from her job as assistant media adviser to Senator Cash.
The beginning of February: Filmed his TV interview with Lisa Wilkinson for The Project.
February 5: Mrs Higgins ‘recorded a conversation with her Michaelia Cash – a federal minister – without her knowledge.
February 6: Mrs Higgins told Senior Constable Emma Frizzell that she wanted to reopen the investigation into her alleged assault.
15 February: The News Corp story was published and Lisa Wilkinson’s interview went live.
‘She tells two police officers, her on-off boyfriend and her boss that she is going to the doctor the next day. I told her directly – the reason was to make them believe she had been sexually assaulted,’ he told the jury.
‘The reason she didn’t was because she didn’t need to – she wasn’t having sex with anyone. You don’t actually go because you don’t need to, because it hadn’t happened’.
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 by Ms Higgins’ mother and former colleague, Nikita Irvine, who told 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.’
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.”