Great news. The Brittany Higgins case is over. The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold announced yesterday that the sexual assault charge against Bruce Lehrmann will be dropped, because of an "unacceptable risk to the life of the complainant".
In an extraordinary statement to the press, Drumgold claimed the decision was made after he received compelling medical evidence of mental health risks to Higgins of continuing with the prosecution. Higgins is now apparently receiving care in a hospital in Queensland. Drumgold commended Higgins for her "bravery, grace, and dignity."
But finally, the truth is being told. Janet Albrechtsen and Stephen Rice, in the Weekend Australian today, revealed that police investigators advised the DPP that there wasn't enough evidence to run the case and they had serious concerns about Higgins' mental health and whether she could cope with a trial.
The newspaper quoted evidence from an executive briefing last year, where the ACT Police Manager of Criminal Investigations, Detective Superintendent Scott Moller advised that investigators "have serious concerns in relation to the strength and reliability of [Ms Higgins'] evidence but also, more importantly, her mental health and how any future prosecution may affect her wellbeing."
The newspaper quoted diary notes made by Moller, which said that their advice was ignored by Drumgold because "there is too much political interference."
The article mentions that the executive briefing listed a series of concerns mentioned by senior police, including that Ms Higgins had repeatedly refused to provide her original mobile phone; had deliberately deleted messages from a second phone; and had lied about seeking medical attention after the incident. Some became issues at the trial.
The documents obtained by The Weekend Australian also reveal that Higgins joked in text messages about crying on The Project to deflect criticism in the media, and, six weeks before the alleged rape, wanting a political sex scandal:
"A sex scandal the party can be proud of. Another Barnaby but without the baby haha," Higgins wrote. None of this was revealed in the trial.
In a separate opinion piece, Albrechtsen says Drumgold's decision to drop the case "is too late and too little."
"In that order. Too late because the DPP should have decided not to prosecute Lehrmann in the first place. Too little because Drumgold should have made that earlier decision for two reasons: the inconsistency and lack of evidence, and the mental health of Higgins."
She goes on: "The AFP material and the way the case proceeded raise serious questions about the DPP's judgment…. his aim seemed to be to protect Higgins from further public scrutiny, which invariably includes criticism. Drumgold's focus on the bravery of Higgins, when there has been no finding of guilt, is especially troubling. Higgins's allegation remains just that – an allegation."
Albrechtsen suggests that rather than seeking to protect Higgins from public scrutiny, Drumgold "should now be much more concerned about the way in which this untested allegation was initially and subsequently publicised, the media circus around it and its impact on whether Lehrmann could receive a fair trial. If Drumgold is not now looking seriously at contempt charges for those involved, we should ask more probing questions of the DPP's judgment."
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