CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape.

The trial of Bruce Lehrmann, the man charged with the rape of Brittany Higgins in 2019, has been dropped because of new concerns for the impact on Higgins’ mental health.

The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold used his prosecutorial discretion to announce on Friday morning that the charges against Lehrmann would be dropped and a second trial would not proceed.

I have recently received compelling evidence from two independent medical experts that the ongoing trauma associated with this prosecution presents a significant and unacceptable risk to the life of the complainant,” Drumgold said.

“The evidence makes it clear that this is not limited to the harm of giving evidence in a witness box, rather applies whether or not the complainant is required to enter a witness box during a retrial.

“Whilst the pursuit of justice is essential for both my office and for the community in general, the safety of a complainant in a sexual assault matter must be paramount.

“In light of the compelling independent medical opinion and balancing all factors, I have made the difficult decision that it is no longer in the public interest to pursue a prosecution at the risk of the complainant’s life.”

Drumgold said he had no choice but to decline to proceed with a retrial.

He concluded by saying he had never seen such personal attacks levelled at a complainant in his career.

“During the investigation and trial as a sexual assault complainant, Ms Higgins, has faced a level of personal attack that I have not seen in over 20 years of doing this work. She has done so with bravery, grace and dignity and it is my hope that this will now stop and Ms Higgins will be allowed to heal.”

This comes after entire jury in the original trial was discharged after outside material not heard by the court was found in the jury room, which meant the trial would have to begin all over again with a new jury.

The ACT Supreme Court heard on October 27 one juror conducted their own research outside the courtroom, which isn’t allowed under their oath, and brought in a research paper on sexual assault.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said she had no choice but to discharge all 12 jurors. A retrial was previously set for February 2023.

The first trial was aborted at the conclusion of a weeks-long trial. The jury had been deliberating since October 19 and had told the court last week they were “unable to reach a unanimous verdict”, but McCallum told them to keep trying.

Bruce Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to raping Brittany Higgins on March 23, 2019 in parliament house.

Help is available.

If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.

If you’d like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.

Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.

Image: Getty Images / Martin Ollman