Australian Politics 2022-12-04 05:28:00


Her poor mental health was why Brittany Higgins went missing during first trial

And her poor mental health was why the retrial was abandoned. Ironical that she was ever taken seriously. It seems that she was delusional from the start. The claim was a he said / she said affair with no corroborating evidence. Except for feminist politics the case would never have gone to trial A serious miscarriage of justice based on an accusation from a mentally unwell woman was narrowly avoided

Brittany Higgins was hospitalised on mental health grounds during the first trial after she went missing and police were called to locate her in Canberra. can reveal for the first time the reason for her disappearance after the ACT Supreme Court lifted an October 10 suppression order.

The serious incident involved multiple police cars being called to search for her and an ambulance being dispatched to her hotel.

She was located by police walking in the rain and taken to the Canberra hospital before she spent five days at a Canberra mental health clinic.

At the conclusion of her treatment, she returned to court to complete her cross examination.

New evidence that the “ongoing trauma” associated with the prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann poses an unacceptable risk to the life of the complainant Brittany Higgins has prompted prosecutors to drop the rape charge and not proceed with a second trial.

Mr Lehrmann has consistently denied the allegations.

ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold confirmed today he had reviewed new medical evidence regarding Ms Higgins.

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

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

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

“In light of the compelling independent medical opinions, 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.”

Ms Higgins was readmitted to hospital on Thursday.

The former Liberal staffer granted permission for her friend and supporter Emma Webster to release the following statement.

“Brittany is in hospital getting the treatment and support she needs,’’ Ms Webster said.

“The last couple of years have been difficult and unrelenting.”

“While it’s disappointing the trial has ended this way, Brittany’s health and safety must always come first.”

“Brittany is extremely grateful for all the support she has received, particularly from our mental health care workers.”

But until now any reporting of her October 10 hospitalisation was prohibited by the Supreme Court.

The trial was briefly delayed during the second week as a result, with Ms Higgins unavailable to appear in court.

Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann, who was charged with one count of sex without consent in ministerial office of Linda Reynolds in the early hours of March 23, 2019, pleaded not guilty.

He was never convicted and the jury was discharged without reaching a verdict after an allegation of juror misconduct.


Police doubted Brittany Higgins but case was ‘political’

The most senior police officer on the Brittany Higgins case believed there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Bruce Lehrmann but could not stop the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions from proceeding because “there is too much political interference”, ­according to diary notes made by the ACT Police Manager of Criminal Investigations, Detective Superintendent Scott Moller.

In a separate executive briefing last year, Superintendent 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 executive briefing lists a series of concerns by senior police, including that Ms Higgins had ­repeatedly refused to provide her original mobile phone; had ­deliberately deleted messages from a second phone; had lied about seeking medical attention after the incident; and had joked about wanting “a sex scandal” a month before the incident. Some became issues at the trial.

The briefing, dated June 9, 2021, states that “there is limited corroborative evidence of sexual intercourse taking place or ­consent being withdrawn or not provided”.

An attached minute signed by Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman, the investigation manager assigned to the case, states: “Investigators at this juncture have a number of concerns ­regarding inconsistencies in disclosures and other evidence ­obtained during the investigation. In light of the issues identified, ­serious concerns exist as to whether there is sufficient ­evidence to prove the alleged ­offence.”

The documents obtained by The Weekend Australian also ­reveal that Ms Higgins texted boyfriend David Sharaz in May last year saying: “F..k it, if they want to play hard ball I’ll cry on The Project again because of this sort of treatment.”

None of the texts or the police doubts about the case were ­revealed to the jury.

Superintendent Moller made notes of a conversation with his boss, ACT Deputy Chief Police Officer Michael Chew, on June 17 last year while discussing Operation Covina – the Higgins/Lehrmann sexual assault case.

At that point in the investigation, The Weekend Australian understands, more than half of the witness list had yet to be interviewed by police, but it appears the DPP, led by Mr Drumgold, had ­already decided to prosecute.

In the diary note, Superintendent Moller wrote: “Insufficient evidence to proceed.

“DCPO [Mr Chew] advised he had a meeting with DPP who ­stated they will recommend ­prosecution. DCPO stated ‘if it was my choice I wouldn’t proceed. But it’s not my choice. There is too much political interference’. I said: ‘That’s disappointing given I think there is insufficient evidence’.”

The following day Superintendent Moller forwarded a copy of the interim brief of evidence to Commander Andrew Smith to conduct an independent review of the investigation. The result of that review is not known.

Ms Higgins first spoke to police on April 1, 2019, a week after the events at Parliament House, but informed them two weeks later she did not wish to continue with the allegations. On February 5, 2021, she re-engaged with police, telling them she had been interviewed by the media and didn’t want to do an evidence-in-chief interview until her interview with The Project host Lisa Wilkinson had aired on television.

The following day “police ­advised Ms Higgins the intended media events … may jeopardise any subsequent criminal investigation; however Ms Higgins made it clear to police she was not willing to provide investigators with a formal statement in relation to the allegations until the media stories had been published. Ms Higgins stated that she wanted to ensure the sexual assault investigation was ‘active’ in anticipation of the media events.”

The TV program aired on February 15 and Ms Higgins sat down with police for her evidence-in-chief interview nine days later.

At that interview investigators reiterated to her the need to examine her mobile phone for potential evidence. “Ms Higgins refused to hand over her phone despite being explained the evidential value of the process,” the police report says.

The AFP statement of facts prepared by Superintendent Moller reflects police frustration over difficulties in obtaining Ms Higgins’ mobile phone after the interview to extract data.

On March 15, when police had arranged for a second time to meet Ms Higgins to obtain the phone, she failed to turn up or to respond to calls. “During the afternoon on the same date police observed Ms Higgins on commercial television at the March4Justice march at Parliament House,” Superintendent Moller wrote.

On May 5, 2021, Superintendent Moller was informed that ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates had advised that any contact with Ms Higgins was now to go to her rather than directly to Ms Higgins.

Three weeks later, Superintendent Moller and other detectives met Ms Higgins, who was accompanied by Ms Yates, at the Winchester Police Centre in Canberra, where she gave a second ­interview.

“During this conversation I stressed to Ms Higgins the importance of refraining from participating in any media interviews in relation to this matter,” Superintendent Moller says in his police statement.

On this occasion Ms Higgins handed over a mobile phone.

Police recovered a text ­exchange between Ms Higgins and former boyfriend Ben ­Dillaway dated February 7, 2019, six weeks before the alleged rape, in which the pair joked about wanting a political sex scandal.

“The bar for what counts as a political sex scandal nowadays is REALLY low,” Ms Higgins wrote.

“I want a sex scandal I can be like whoa. Impressive. Didn’t think he had it in him,” Mr Dillaway wrote.

“Exactly! A sex scandal the party can be proud of. Another Barnaby but without the baby haha,” Ms Higgins responded.

On July 12 last year Superintendent Moller again met Ms Higgins and Ms Yates, this time at AFP headquarters in Brisbane to update her on the investigation.

“Ms Higgins advised that any photos taken on the night of the incident were saved on her Google drive attached to her iCloud but she could not recall taking any photos.

“Ms Higgins advised (of) the photo of an injury to her leg she took herself on WhatsApp during budget week, however she could not recall the exact date. Ms Higgins advised she shared this photo with The Project on 19 January 2021.

“Ms Higgins advised she had seven iPhones since 2019, most had been supplied by the government as part of her work and they had been returned when she changed jobs, however Ms Higgins was happy for police to take the old phones she had.”

During the conversation Superintendent Moller showed Ms Higgins text messages ­between herself and Mr Sharaz on May 21, 2021 about her sending him an audio file because she was “clearing out her phone ahead of the police”.

“Ms Higgins told me that the files she had sent to David Sharaz and deleted from her phone related to taped conversations of her talking to various ministers and she was concerned she had committed an offence by taping the ministers so she didn’t want the police to find them.”

Ms Yates returned later that day and handed over two iPhones from Ms Higgins.


Federal parliament overturns 25-year-old ban on euthanasia laws in ACT and Northern Territory

The federal parliament has lifted a 25-year-old ban that prevented the territories from making voluntary assisted dying laws.

Every state in Australia has already legalised voluntary euthanasia.

However, in 1997, the Commonwealth imposed a veto on the Northern Territory and the ACT, specifically barring them from doing so.

Thursday's Senate vote ends that ban, paving the way for the two territories to debate and pass their own laws.

The chamber and public gallery broke out into applause as senators agreed to repeal the ban, without a formal count of votes for and against.

Among the onlookers were several ACT MLAs, including Chief Minister Andrew Barr. Former NT chief minister Marshall Perron was also in the gallery.

Mr Perron's Country Liberal Party government had introduced the world's first legal euthanasia scheme in 1995, before then federal Liberal backbencher Kevin Andrews led the Commonwealth push to abolish it.

Thursday's Senate vote followed hours of debate across several sittings, involving almost all senators and, earlier, many MPs. The main parties had allowed parliamentarians to vote according to their conscience.

It was the fourth attempt to revoke Mr Andrews's ban on the territories, following earlier, unsuccessful efforts in 2008, 2010 and 2018.

Mr Perron thanked Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for "doing what his five predecessors didn't do".

"And that's facilitate the debate on returning power to the territories," he said. "There has been a bill before parliament to do exactly that, continuously now, for 18 years."

Advocates highlight 'unconscionable' divide

Labor had promised before this year's election that it would allow a debate on the longstanding ban.

Independent ACT senator David Pocock had also pledged to push for a vote on territory rights.

Ultimately, two Labor backbenchers — Canberra's Alicia Payne and Darwin's Luke Gosling — introduced the bill that eventually passed through parliament.

Television producer and comedian Andrew Denton, who founded the euthanasia advocacy group Go Gently, was on hand to watch the final vote.

He expressed "deep gratitude" to parliamentarians, "on behalf of all advocates, and particularly those who died painfully or had loved ones who died painfully".

"It is unconscionable that here, in the ACT, somebody dying of cancer does not have the same end-of-life choices as somebody living less than 30 kilometres away in Queanbeyan."

During the debate, NT Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy said past justifications to intervene in and control the territories made little sense today.

"Yes, we do have a small population in the Northern Territory, but we have big hearts," she said. "We have great thinkers, we excel at so many levels."

Senator McCarthy said that since Mr Perron introduced his world-first legislation in 1995, the NT "has grown, exponentially, in skills, and knowledge, and ability to make its own decisions".

"Why is it we are constantly told we cannot make decisions for ourselves?"


Climate change pest who blocked the Sydney Harbour Bridge is JAILED for her 'selfish and childish' stunt

A protester who blocked the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a protest over climate change has been sent to prison after a magistrate slammed her for her 'childish stunts' and 'selfish emotional' actions.

Magistrate Allison Hawkins sent Deanna 'Violet' Coco to prison for a minimum of eight months after she pleaded guilty to seven charges, including using an authorised explosive not as prescribed, possessing a bright light distress signal in a public place, and interfering with the safe operation of a bridge.

The 31-year-old sat at the front of the public gallery at Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court on Friday, wiping tears from her eyes as she held hands with her mother and another female supporter.

At 8.30am on April 13, Coco drove a large hire truck along the Cahill Expressway on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and purposefully blocked a lane during peak hour, the court was told.

While the truck was obstructing traffic, she stood on top of it, held a lit emergency flare and livestreamed the event.

After 25 minutes, police arrived and forcibly removed the protesters from the iconic Sydney landmark, with Coco resisting arrest.

Defence lawyer Mark Davis told the court a 'salient fact' in Coco's case was that she only blocked one lane on the Sydney Harbour Bridge when there were five.

'One lane was blocked ... it was a deliberate decision to only block one lane,' Mr Davis said.

'To put it simply, the traffic may have still been moving, there was no suggestion there was backup of traffic.'

The court was told Coco suffered from 'serious anxiety surrounding climate change' and her actions were personally motivated, as her boyfriend had been arrested for a similar protest on a football field.

Mr Davis said his client was in a 'high state of emotion' and would not have ordinarily conducted the offence.

Ms Hawkins questioned Mr Davis´ defence: 'Normal members of the community going to work and going about their ordinary business are not entitled to being disrupted because she´s in a high state of emotion.'

The defence lawyer said climate change anxiety was the 'most prevalent anxiety' in Coco´s generation.

'There may be an overwhelming threat of doom, they sense they aren´t being heard, the government isn´t doing enough, it´s leading to these types of actions,' Mr Davis said.

Ms Hawkins found there was an 'intended element of planning' in Coco´s offending.

'You stopped during peak-hour having obtained a flare and truck, and the banners and glue, to halt peak-hour traffic in the city at that particular time with the aim of gaining maximum exposure,' the magistrate said.

'You knew this was illegal, you knew you would be arrested and you knew there would be consequences.'

Ms Hawkins told Coco she let an 'entire city suffer' due to her 'emotional reaction' and failed to take into account the other people she affected.

She said the 31-year-old´s actions deserved condemnation from both the court and the community.

'You do damage to your cause when you do childish stunts like this. Why should they be disrupted by your selfish emotional actions?' Ms Hawkins said.

'You are not a political prisoner, you are a criminal.'

Coco was convicted and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment with a non-parole period of eight months.

She hugged her mother and friend before she was handcuffed and led out of the court by two corrective services officers.