Brittany Higgins is 'right to fear' from political backlash in reporting alleged rape, court hears

In their closing argument to the jury, prosecutors said there were 'strong political forces' at play when Higgins initially decided not to go to the police.

Brittany Higgins was "righteous to be frightened" by the "powerful political forces" swirling around her as she weighed whether to proceed with her complaint about her alleged rape at the Houses of Parliament, prosecutors said.

Evidence in the ACT Supreme Court trial against Bruce Lehrmann concluded Tuesday morning, after Crown closed its case. The defense did not call witnesses. In his closing filing, ACT director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC asked the jury to consider why Higgins initially chose not to file a complaint during the 2019 election, when he worked for then defense industry secretary Linda Reynolds.

"He was faced with a crossroads between his job and filing this complaint," Drumgold said. "That's what he's dealing with."

Drumgold makes it clear that there are strong political forces still at play nearly two years later, in 2021, when he decides to file a complaint and resign from the office of senator Michaelia Cash. He said the actions of Reynolds - who on Monday denied trying to "coach" the defense during Higgins' cross-examination - also made it "very clear" that political power was still a factor.

Drumgold said Higgins was also concerned by the comments of the then interior minister, Peter Dutton, who appeared to have unpublished information. He said Higgins had fears about the "flow of information" from police about his allegations.

“Obviously, I said … that this was a young woman in the midst of a powerful political force, and we said she was right to be afraid,” Drumgold said. "He was right to be careful and we say he was right to move slowly and carefully in turning his life over to the police."

Defense attorney Steven Whybrow, in his closing speech, told the jury that Higgins was in a "deeply shameful" situation after being found naked in his minister's office after a night of drinking. Whybrow said it was something "not good for your CV".

"Is there a reasonable possibility that this complaint was made because his dream job, from his point of view, was in jeopardy?" he says.

Whybrow suggested she wake up at 8am then wait until 10am to leave, put a jacket over her dress, and keep her head down and hope "no one notices".

The court heard Higgins sent a message to security guards later that day. He then deleted the messages before handing the phone over to the police. Whybrow said Higgins had normal interactions with Lehrmann when they returned to work, pointing to work emails between the couple. He says Higgins has explained he is traumatized and is still processing what happened to you.

"But in this case, as I'm about to tell you, a stand down position for Ms Higgins, every time she's asked a tough question or stuck by something," Whybrow said. "You might assume that they talk about the point he makes whenever things get tough." Previously, Drumgold pointed out various reasons Lehrmann didn't really give for the morning visit to parliament with Higgins on March 23, 2019.

He said the real reason for the visit was because he wanted to continue partying after a night out at a Canberra bar, or that parliament was the easiest way to get Higgins himself. “[It was] the most comfortable place to get a very drunk and vulnerable complainant alone … probably in the hopes that he wouldn't refuse or wouldn't remember,” Drumgold said.

Lehrmann had told parliamentary security that evening that he and Higgins had been "asked to retrieve some documents", the court heard, though later told Reynolds he never suggested he was operating with his authority.

He then told the police he was there to pick up the keys and about some quick questions. It was a sitting week and the court had heard evidence that there was no urgency for Lehrmann to put together a timeline. "Back off and remember it's 1:40 a.m. on a Saturday morning," Drumgold said.

As, Whybrow said it was natural to tell police he was in parliament for work, not remember them, on the contrary, the other way around. He showed the CCTV jury Lehrmann through parliamentary security, which he said showed he had no keys.

Drumgold said evidence showed that Higgins had provided a consistent version of events for more than three years, from the days following the allegations, to his evidence in court. He has filed complaints with nine people over 16 days. There was no inconsistency in his complaint about the allegations, from the complaints he made to his then chief of staff Fiona Brown, minister Linda Reynolds, friends, colleagues and family, prosecutors said. "We handed him unwavering," said Drumgold. He told the jury that the crux of the case was whether Higgins had fabricated his version of events.

"If this is a fabrication, he's also a great actor," he said. “He has backed it up with consistent displays of emotion, ranging from upset, upset, and devastated.” But Whybrow pointed to Higgins' repeated statements to police, his ex-girlfriend Ben Dillaway, and his boss Fiona Brown that he had gone to the presumptive doctor, and was awaiting results, or was going to see one. The court has heard there is no record of him going to the doctor.

"It was something Ms Higgins told police to sound more believable that she had been sexually assaulted, she told Ms Brown to make it more believable that she had been sexually assaulted." He also brought the jury to Higgins that he had kept the dress from that night unproof and unsanitary under his bed for six months. When shown a photo of herself wearing the dress at an event for Reynolds' birthday, Higgins admitted she was wrong and she wore it once.

We've got a few statements from the guy he explained to you before lunch as being sincere, open and honest, who makes concessions, who doesn't say things he doesn't believe in, six months, nothing. , not clean',” said Whybrow. Drumgold said there was no evidence that Higgins' job was ever threatened.

"We are saying that the suggestion of a motive for making these accusations should be dismissed out of hand," he said. "It has to be based on evidence, not evidence." Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

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