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    The Bruce Lehrmann and Brittany Higgins trial that gripped the nation is approaching an end with the jury now deliberating their decision.

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      Criminal Lawyer Explains Bruce Lehrmann & Brittany Higgins Trial

      The Bruce Lehrmann and Brittany Higgins trial that gripped the nation is approaching an end with the jury now deliberating their decision.

      Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent. The trial heard from both parties as well as several prominent witnesses.

      There was lengthy cross-examination with revelations of inconsistencies in the evidence of certain witnesses, explosive text messages and an offer of a potential book deal worth $325,000.

      What happened to Brittany Higgins?

      Brittany Higgins claimed she was sexually assaulted by Bruce Lehrmann inside Parliament House in March 2019.

      Both Higgins and Lehrmann were Liberal party staff members at the time, working for Linda Reynolds.

      Higgins had been in Canberra for a number of months prior to the incident. She had moved from the Gold Coast to take up a self-described ‘dream job’ working for a federal minister.

      CCTV from the night in question – Friday, 22 March 2019 – was played before the jury. It showed Higgins arriving at a popular Canberra bar in a white cocktail dress, say hello to some of her colleagues before getting herself a drink.

      The court heard that most people at the table thought they would soon be unemployed as the Liberal Party were expected to lose the 2019 election.

      The footage depicted Higgins consuming 11 drinks over four-and-a-half hours. Mr Lehrmann was seen buying Ms Higgins’ drinks on some occasions.

      During her police interview in 2021, Ms Higgins described herself being as drunk as she’d ever been in her life.

      Footage showed the pair leaving the bar together. Ms Higgins said she went to a nightclub with Lehrmann and two colleagues and recalled the group taking shots.

      CCTV footage from Parliament House showed the pair entering in the early hours of Saturday.

      Both Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann were escorted into Senator Reynold’s office by a security guard. This is where the footage ends.

      Photographs of Ms Reynolds’ office, where the sexual assault allegedly occurred, were tendered in court.

      Ms Higgins descrbed how she was “jammed up in the corner” when she woke up to Mr Lehrmann having sex with her.

      She told the court, “I felt like a prop” and described herself feeling “trapped” and “not human”.

      “It didn’t feel like it was about me at all”, she said.

      She went onto say she was crying and asking Lehrmann to stop “on repeat”.

      CCTV footage shows Lehrmann leaving parliament by himself about an hour after arriving. Ms Higgins is seen leaving at 10am on Saturday.

      Who is Brittany Higgins Partner?

      Brittany Higgins partner is David Sharaz.

      Under cross-examination from Bruce Lehrmann’s sexual assault lawyer, Higgins was shown a text message she sent to Sharaz which read, “I’m clearing out my phone ahead of the police.”

      She also told the court that she sent a number of recordings to her partner because she, “was terrified of them not existing”.

      Brittany Higgins Book Deal

      There was also a bombshell revelation that a potential $325,000 Brittany Higgins book deal was in the works prior to being formally interviewed by police.

      In closing addresses, Bruce Lehrmann’s criminal lawyers submitted, “I’m not here again to tell you or to prove why she goes back to the police and initiates this again in 2021…But, it’s a trite line, there is 325,000 reasons now why.”

      The White Dress

      In her evidence in chief, Brittany Higgins told the ACT Supreme Court that the white dress she was wearing on the night of the alleged incident was placed in a plastic bag under her bed for six months, “untouched and uncleaned”.

      “I wore it once more but I never wore it again after that,” she said.

      She told the court that once it was clear she couldn’t report the alleged sexual assault without losing her job, she “very symbolically washed the dress”.

      However, under cross-examination from Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyer, Ms Higgins was shown a photograph of her wearing the same dress in May 2019 at Ms Reynolds’s birthday party in Perth. This was only two months after the alleged incident.

      It forced an admission from Higgins that she was “clearly wrong” when she said she kept the dress under her bed for six months.

      It was suggested that she travelled to Perth on 13 April. This meant that the dress was only under her bed for a few weeks, rather than six months as she claimed.

      “It stayed under my bed for a period of time…I said six months, I was clearly wrong on that but it stayed under my bed for a period of time,” she said.

      Text messages

      The court also that heard Brittany Higgins texted her father – who she called ‘Papa Bear’ – that a co-worker had been ‘inappropriate’. The message was sent four days after the alleged incident.

      Messages read out to the jury stated that there had been an “incident with a person at work”.

      There were also text messages between Ms Higgins and her ex-partner – Ben Dillaway –  tendered in court. They set out that she was furious about being offered “jack s**t in terms of help” after the allegation.

      Ms Higgins wrote that she was ‘literally assaulted’ in Ms Reynolds’ office but was offered ‘no help’.

      Mr Dillaway responded by labelling former minister Reynolds a ‘f***ing b***h’.

      Brittany Higgins & Linda Reynolds

      Brittany Higgins said she had a meeting with Linda Reynolds and Fiona Brown following the alleged incident where Reynolds apologised for what had happened.

      Higgins claimed she thought she may lose her job if she went to the police. This was due to the upcoming election and the potential damage that could be done to the Liberal Party.

      She also said she feared she wouldn’t be believed because of Lehrmann’s more senior role in the office.

      But Lehrmann’s criminal defence lawyers put to Ms Higgins that, when she left Ms Brown’s office, she was more concerned about her career being in jeopardy.

      Ms Higgins pointed at Lehrmann in the courtroom and replied, “It was absolutely a concern but it was a moment of… I’d let it out. For the first time I’d let it out. I was holding it in pretending it was fine. Nothing was fine after what you did to me. Nothing.”

      Ms Higgins agreed that Linda Reynolds told her, “You will be supported in whatever you decide to do,” and that there would be no impact on her career.

      But she explained that, “It had all these provisions on it, so saying it at face value sounds broadly OK but in the context of where they were saying it, how they were saying it, in the context of the [upcoming] election… it felt threatening.”

      She was then shown a bottle of champagne she bought for Brown in June and agreed she bought flowers for Reynolds.

      Higgins was also asked whether she deleted those messages from her phone prior to giving it to police. She denied this, claiming that her WhatsApp data was wiped when she changed phones.

      Brittany Higgins Cross-Examination

      It was suggested to Higgins that the email exchanges she had with Lehrmann on the Monday and Tuesday after the alleged incident were “completely cordial and normal” because there was no sexual assault.

      She was then taken to her interview with federal police where she said Lehrmann attempted to kiss her before 22 March 2019. She said the attempted kiss would have occurred during a sitting week, and on a Wednesday, because “that’s when we went out as a team”.

      However, it was revealed that there was no sitting week between March 2 and 26, 2019 forcing a concession from Ms Higgins that, “I don’t know if I should have been so definitive.”

      This is a common cross-examination technique used by criminal lawyers known as ‘closing the gates’, whereby a witness is led into making a statement which can be demonstrably proven to be false.

      Lisa Wilkinson Interview

      Ms Higgins was cross-examined about whether she told Lisa Wilkinson on 21 January 2021 that Lehrmann removed her underwear.

      “I didn’t wear underwear that night with the dress on the basis that it had lines. I know that’s salacious … But I didn’t wear underwear with that dress on the basis that it had lines. I’m a 20-year-old girl, we care about stuff like that.”

      Ms Higgins was shown that interview where she told Wilkinson that Lehrmann removed her underwear. She agreed she said that but claimed that she said it because she was embarrassed.

      It was also revealed that Lisa Wilkinson was “quite angry” when her interview with Ms Higgins aired on The Project on a day she was not on the show.

      The Doctor Appointments

      Ms Higgins was also cross-examined about doctor appointments she told police she attended within two weeks of the rape and was awaiting test results.

      But police could find no record of her attending such an appointment.

      Bruce Lehrmann’s sexual assault lawyers suggested Higgins told Ms Brown and her ex-partner Ben Dillaway about false doctor’s appointments to “bolster” her allegations.

      It was suggested that Higgins did not go to the doctor because she had not had sex with anyone to which she responded, “Nothing you are saying right now is true … and it’s deeply insulting”.

      She was then asked about a photograph of a large bruise on her thigh, which had been previously shown to the court and why she didn’t mention the photograph when speaking to police.

      Indeed, the photograph wasn’t mentioned to police until investigators extracted her phones in January 2021.

      It was suggested that she fabricated suffering a bruise and injury as a result of Lehrmann. She denied this.

      “Con artist”

      It was put to Ms Higgins that she was embarrassed after being found naked in Ms Reynold’s office and fabricated sexual assault allegation.

      “You did what you thought was necessary to have people believe you had been [a victim of sexual intercourse without consent],” he said.

      Ms Higgins replied. “I’m not a monster. I would never do something like that.”

      Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyers asked the jury to consider how they might react to the demeanour of a “con artist”. Such a person might appear genuine and believable, “because demeanour is hard to pick up sometimes”.

      Brittany Higgins Reddit and Twitter

      Chief Justice Lucy McCallum urged the jury not to read any media reports about the case. This was due to the significant publicity the case has received.

      Initially a non-publication order was made in relation Bruce Lehrmann’s name. However, reddit and twitter threads related to Brittany Higgins exposed his name.

      “You must rest exclusively on the evidence you hear in this courtroom,” she reminded them.

      Bruce Lehrmann Background

      Bruce Lehrmann was employed as a Liberal party staffer under Linda Reynolds. He is aged 27 years old.

      Crown prosecutors pointed to issues with Lehrmann’s own credibility. Lehrmann gave multiple reasons for the early morning visit to parliament with Higgins on 23 March 2019. These were at odds with other witness testimony.

      Lehrmann told parliament security he had been “instructed” to pick up documents. But he later told Reynolds he had not implied he was acting under her authority when entering the building after 1.30am.

      Fiona Brown gave evidence that Mr Lehrmann told her that he was there to “drink whisky”. He later told police he was there to pick up his keys and work on some question time briefs.

      The proseuction said the true reason for the visit was that Lehrmann either wanted to continue partying or that parliament was the easiest way to get Higgins alone.

      “[It was] most convenient place to get the then very drunk and vulnerable complainant alone … possibly with the hope that she would either not resist or not remember,” the Crown prosecutor said.

      What are the possible outcomes?

      As the jury deliberate the verdict, sexual assault lawyers explain that there are three possible outcomes for Bruce Lehrmann.

      Firstly, he may be found ‘not guilty’. This will require a unanimous verdict where all jurors agree that the Crown have not proved their case beyond reasonable doubt.

      Secondly, he may be found guilty. This will also require agreement from all jurors.

      Finally, if the jury are unable to reach a unanimous verdict they can be declared a hung jury. This means that the trial will conclude without Lehrmann being found guilty or not guilty. If this were to occur, the Crown would have the option of either requesting a retrial or discontinuing proceedings.

      As this is the first trial that Lehrmann has faced, it is more likely that there will be a retrial if the jury is hung.   

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