The chief prosecutor in the Bruce Lehrmann rape trial described the AFP detectives investigating the case as “boofheads” and didn’t want them giving evidence at the trial.
Defence barrister Steve Whybrow SC, who represented Mr Lehrmann in the criminal trial, makes the claim in his own 71-page submission to the inquiry.
Mr Drumgold’s explosive submissions to the inquiry also includes accusations police engaged in “unsophisticated corruption” or “atomic-level stupidity”.
The statement outlines what the defence barrister said happened after his legal team sent an email on October 11, 2021 about the police they wanted to call as witnesses.
The defence wanted to call Detective Marcus Boorman, Detective Scott Moller and the former Liberal minister Michaelia Cash.
Mr Whybrow said that the ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shane Drumgold SC then approached him during the trial and made the following observation.
“Any opinion by those boofheads about the strength of this case is not admissible,” he said, according to Mr Whybrow.
An independent inquiry into how the justice system handled the rape allegation made by former Ms Higgins is taking place. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
In his submission to the inquiry, Mr Whybrow criticises the DPP for making the remarks.
“I did not think at the time, and do not think now, that the comment was appropriate,’’ Mr Whybrow said. “I do not recall that I said anything in response.”
Mr Whybrow said that later in the trial Mr Drumgold had told the judge that “the skill set of the police” investigating the Brittany Higgins matter was “not high”.
The defence barrister said he then pointed out these remarks to the police himself and also told them they had done a good job in the record of interviews.
“For what it’s worth, I thought you did a good job in the interviews,” he told the AFP officers.
He said he thought they were “forensic and fair”.
ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman
Claims police tried to sabotage the rape case
The AFP are legally represented at the inquiry and are expected to give evidence later in the inquiry.
In his statement to the inquiry Mr Drumgold has claimed investigating police tried to sabotage the rape case against Bruce Lehrmann
Distressed by the police conduct, Ms Higgins asked ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates to deal with police on her behalf.
But the AFP then conducted a formal interview with Ms Yates and raised concerns that she had a conflict and should no longer act for Ms Higgins.
“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,” Mr Drumgold said in his statement.
During early meetings with police, Mr Drumgold became concerned about the conduct of police.
“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’,” he said. “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.”
Secret meetings between police, Lehrmann’s barrister
In his statement, Mr Whybrow also detailed his meetings with Detective Marcus Boorman.
On October 19, the defence barrister received a call from The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen about a report the AFP wrote about inconsistencies in Ms Higgins’ evidence.
Mr Whybrow followed that up by contacting Detective Inspector Boorman and the pair caught up on October 20 at Canberra’s Cupping Room coffee shop.
On October 25, 2021, the defence barrister said the detective contacted him “asking if I could have a chat over a coffee which I agreed to do”.
But he was “anxious and agitated” and worried about being seen with the defence barrister.
“DI Boorman indicated to me he was quite distressed about this prosecution and he considered Mr Lehrmann to be innocent.
Mr Whybrow said that the detective claimed he would “resign” if the jury came back with a guilty verdict.
Bruce Lehrmann leaves the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Canberra on May 8. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Martin Ollman
DPP under fire over ‘false statements’
The ACT DPP Shane Drumgold was confronted at the inquiry on Monday and accused of making “knowingly false” statements to the ACT Supreme Court about a record of his discussions with Channel 10 journalist Lisa Wilkinson.
The DPP argued he warned Wilkinson last year before her Logies speech that any more publicity risked another stay application to delay the trial.
She disputes that a clear warning was given.
Last year the trial of Mr Lehrmann was delayed from June until October after The Project co-host accepted the Logie for her coverage of the sexual assault allegation.
ACT Chief Justice Lucy McCallum vacated the trial dates after the defence team requested a temporary stay in the wake of the speech and surrounding publicity. She said at the time that Ms Wilkinson was given a clear warning.
About an hour into the hearing, the counsel assisting the inquiry, Erin Longbottom KC, asked Mr Drumgold a series of questions over the records surrounding his discussions with Wilkinson.
They met over Microsoft Teams in mid-2022 to discuss her evidence as a Crown witness.
The inquiry heard that the initial note of the meeting by a junior staff member did not include any reference to a discussion of the Logies speech.
Mr Drumgold was asked a series of questions over the records surrounding his discussions with Lisa Wilkinson. Picture: Supplied
However the inquiry was told the note was later updated to include Mr Drumgold’s claim that he expressly warned Wilkinson about the risk of a stay application.
“That note included your recollections of an exchange with Ms Wilkinson in relation to a speech she proposed to give at the Logies,’’ Ms Longbottom asked.
She then pointed to a transcript recording an ACT Supreme Court hearing into a stay application in relation to the Logies speech where Mr Drumgold referred to his notes of the meeting with Wilkinson.
“You responded that the note was made by my instructor and contemporaneously. You accept that?’’ Ms Longbottom asked.
“Yes,’’ Mr Drumgold replied.
Ms Longbottom then told the inquiry, “Mr Drumgold those statements were false. And they were knowingly false.”
“No, I don’t accept that,’’ Mr Drumgold replied.
Mr Drumgold said it was unintentional.
“How can it be unintentional?’’ Inquiry chair Walter Sofronoff KC asked.
Mr Drumgold then said, “Well, I accepted that [it] was probably an error.”
“You think it’s an error?” Mr Sofronoff replied. He then called for a morning tea break.
Brittany Higgins leaves the ACT Magistrates Court in Canberra on October 14, 2022. Picture: David Gray/AFP
Something has gone wrong
Earlier, Mr Drumgold revealed he declared “oh no” after he learned of Wilkinson’s Logies speech that ultimately delayed the trial of Bruce Lehrmann in the Brittany Higgins rape case.
“Did you watch the Logies awards?’’ counsel assisting the inquiry Erin Longbottom asked Mr Drumgold.
Mr Drumgold said he did not but was alerted to the speech shortly afterwards and recognised immediately it could risk a stay application by the defence team.
“It was problematic,’’ he said.
Mr Drumgold is being represented by barrister Mark Tedeschi KC, a former law professor and prosecutor who ran the trial against backpacker killer Ivan Milat.
Truth hurts warning
Earlier, the former judge who is leading an independent inquiry into how the justice system handled the rape allegation made by Ms Higgins has warned that his investigation may “unavoidably hurt some people’s reputations”.
The inquiry opened with revelations that Mr Drumgold believed police are “applying the wrong test” when prosecuting people accused of rape in the ACT.
“Public inquiries unavoidably hurt some people’s reputations,’’ Mr Sofronoff said in his opening address.
“That’s because the truth sometimes hurt and sometimes the truth is hidden. So that doesn’t cause hurt.
“To the extent that damage to reputation is unavoidable, then it has to be lived with but the inquiry is trying to ensure that nobody is harmed unnecessarily.”
‘Appalling’: Shock new details on Higgins caseBombshell Higgins revelation sparks probe
In her opening address, Ms Longbottom said that the DPP’s concerns about police conduct went beyond the Brittany Higgins case.
“You will hear Mr Drumgold has ongoing concerns that ACT Police are applying the wrong test when deciding whether to charge,’’ she said.