The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC has torn The Australian Federal Police a new one in the public inquiry into the handling of the Bruce Lehrmann prosecution and accused its officers of “appalling” conduct regarding Brittany Higgins.
Drumgold’s comments were in relation to police’s claims in an executive briefing, known as the Moller report, which is supposed to outline police concerns about the case.
The document was prepared and emailed to Drumgold in June 2021, and it’s what led him to call for an inquiry into the AFP’s conduct after it became apparent to him that police were resistant to charging Lehrmann for the rape of Brittany Higgins even though he believed there was enough evidence to do so.
In the Moller report’s covering letter, Detective Superintendent Scott Moller wrote that “the investigation has identified a number of concerns regarding this matter to date including inconsistencies in disclosure, credibility concerns”, per news.com.au.
In the briefing, police claimed Brittany Higgins was “evasive, uncooperative and manipulative” — just because she didn’t want to hand them her mobile phone (which they received access to anyway).
The report then detailed text messages from Higgins to her partner at the time, entries into her Notes app that seemed to be mantras affirming her stance, and “search history searches in relation to ending her own life”.
Police submitted these, an interview with Higgins in which she confirmed she did not seek medical attention after the alleged rape, and Higgins’ history of anxiety and depression to persuade Drumgold not to prosecute Lehrmann.
However, Drumgold slammed the report as “inadmissible opinion evidence” when he took to the stand as the first witness in the inquiry.
Drumgold said the police’s comments in the document were comparable to “complaining she’s wearing a miniskirt” in terms of their irrelevance to whether or not someone consented to sex, and blasted the brief as “just biased, stereotyped opinion” where “evidence was taken out of context”, per news.com.au.
In an 81-page statement to the inquiry, Drumgold accused police of trying to sabotage Higgins’ case against Lehrmann.
“Rather than a summary of the relevant evidence … this briefing seemed to be an attempt to demonstrate that the evidence was weak. The presenting officers focused heavily on Ms Higgins’ credibility,” he said.
“I recall they described her as ‘evasive’.
“Detective Inspector Boorman expressed frustration that Ms Higgins had not provided to the investigators her mobile phone when they first asked for access to it, suggesting that if Ms Higgins was honest about the offence, she would have handed over the phone to them.”
Drumgold recalled that Higgins, who he says was distressed by the police’s conduct, asked ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates to liaise with police for her — which the AFP tried to block over concerns Yates had a conflict of interest.
“This heightened my fear that this was an attempt to prevent Ms Yates from insulating Ms Higgins from direct contact with police, in order to increase the emotional distress of Ms Higgins, in the hope that she would not be able to proceed as a witness,” Drumgold said in his statement.
He also accused police of “unsophisticated corruption” and “atomic-level stupidity”.
As if this couldn’t be more scathing, Defence Barrister Steve Whybrow SC, who represented Lehrmann in the criminal trial, claimed in his own 71-page submission to the inquiry that Drumgold called the AFP cops investigating the case “boofheads” who he didn’t trust to give evidence at the trial.
“Any opinion by those boofheads about the strength of this case is not admissible,” he said, according to Whybrow.
Whybrow also claimed Drumgold told the judge at the time that “the skill set of the police” investigating Bruce Lehrmann was “not high”.
Whybrow also, perhaps counterintuitively, revealed Detective Inspector Boorman (if you’re losing track of all these names, he’s the cop who said Brittany Higgins should give her phone to police if she’s telling the truth about her accusation) was “quite distressed about [the] prosecution” because “he considered Mr Lehrmann to be innocent”.
Board of Inquiry day 2: Court documents reveal the AFP was going to allow Bruce Lehrmann to travel to Fiji and/ or Thailand while on bail for Brittany Higgins alleged rape.
— Isabelle Mullen (@ijmullen) May 9, 2023
Whybrow also said Boorman was so invested in Lehrmann’s innocence that he claimed he would “resign” if the jury found Lehrmann guilty.
The AFP are legally represented at the inquiry and are expected to give evidence later as it progresses. Right now, the inquiry is interrogating Drumgold for allegedly giving “false statements” to the ACT Supreme Court about a meeting with Lisa Wilkinson before her infamous Logies speech.
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