The top cop who oversaw the investigation of Brittany Higgins rape allegation has told an inquiry that she ignored repeated warnings to stop talking to the media.
Detective Superintendent Scott Moller has given evidence to an inquiry today for a second day about tensions between police, Ms Higgins, her partner David Sharaz and the Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold.
“I was concerned about Miss Higgins continual appearance in the media,’’ Supt Moller told the inquiry.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold’s barrister Mark Tedeschi SC then asked the senior police officer if she ignored those warnings.
“Would it be fair to say that despite all the warnings from police that she was reluctant to follow the warnings that have been given?’’ Mr Tedeschi asked.
“Well she didn’t follow them. She wasn’t reluctant. She didn’t do it,’’ Supt Moller replied.
“She was warned a number of times. Advised I think is probably a better choice of words,.”
Supt Moller was asked if on the 17th of June 2021 he had a conversation with Ms Higgins legal representative Leon Zwier about media.
Brittany Higgins shown leaving the ACT Magistrates Court with members of her legal team in October 2022. Picture: DAVID GRAY/AFP
He said there was considerable pressure on the police to deal with the matter, although he rejected suggestions it was political pressure or from the government.
“We are human,’’ he said.
“What I’m saying to you is that the police are human, so they’re affected by pressure.”
Police ‘hurt and upset’
Supt Moller has also revealed detectives were “hurt and upset” by claims they were undercharging rape cases and believed the DPP’s claim that CCTV went missing was wrong and “unfair.”
He has given evidence to an inquiry today about the forces that impacted the relationship between the DPP Shane Drumgold SC and police during the investigation.
The inquiry was sparked by Mr Drumgold’s claim that police “aligned themselves with the defence” during the trial, a claim that Supt Moller rejects.
In the lead up to the trial, a report was released in December 2021 that suggested issues in the ACT police’s sexual assault investigation team that was leading to what was claimed was a failure to prosecute cases that ought to be taken to trial.
“Certainly the sexual assault team was taken aback by the report. They were hurt. I guess they were upset because it pointed to professionalism, I suppose so they were upset about that,’’ Supt Moller said.
Supt Moller gave evidence about tensions between police, Ms Higgins, her partner David Sharaz and the Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold (pictured). Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dylan Robinson
Police reject ‘undercharging’ claim
Last week, the DPP’s barrister Mark Tedeschi suggested Bruce Lehrmann never would have been charged if it wasn’t for the publicity surrounding the case because the ACT police were “undercharging” and had a “bizarre” approach to sex cases, an inquiry has heard.
“It was a case overwhelmingly in need of charging,” Mr Tedeschi told the inquiry, without commenting on the outcome of the case.
“There was a feeling of being unfairly criticised because the data that was being used was not accurate,’’ Supt Moller told the inquiry today in relation to the claims.
Supt Moller agreed that Mr Drumgold was involved in the report that suggested other jurisdictions were charging more, but rejected the idea he was instrumental.
“I don’t agree with Mr. Tedeschi saying that Mr Drumgold was the driving force behind it and the police were upset with him because of that because it wasn’t in my view, it wasn’t like that.”
“From a policing perspective. We don’t shy away from criticism. We will do better, if we can.
“They were very professional police, very dedicated to their role, and, and, you know, they turn up every day, do the best job they can.”
The DPP’s barrister Mark Tedeschi suggested Bruce Lehrmann never would have been charged if it wasn’t for the publicity surrounding the case. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Deleted CCTV claims ‘unfair’
Last week, the inquiry heard claims the DPP feared some CCTV had “disappeared”.
The CCTV footage reportedly showed Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann at Parliament House on the night of her alleged rape.
Mr Drumgold’s co-counsel, Skye Jerome, told investigators she hoped “nothing unlawful” had happened to the CCTV images.
But Supt Moller said the DPP was mistaken and police were certain the footage never existed.
“It was another unfair accusation that was directed at the police,’’ Supt Moller said.
“That allegation was taken very seriously,”
Political interference claims refuted
Supt Moller also told the inquiry admitted that at no stage did he or other investigating officers have any political pressure applied “in any way, shape or form”.
Detective Supt Scott Moller is the author of a document that had become known as the Moller report that stated his own superior said there was “too much political pressure” in the case.
Supt Moller said he was concerned about Miss Higgins’ continual appearance in the media. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
But he told the inquiry today that it did not extend to pressure from politicians or political leaders, despite the ACT Deputy Chief Police Officer Michael Chew telling him there was “too much political pressure.”
He said today the pressure was from his superiors in the AFP to get the matter done, the DPP and the media.
Counsel assisting Joshua Jones raised the issue of political pressure with Supt Moller during a brief cross examination on Tuesday morning.
“At any stage of the investigation, decision to charge or the trial, did you have any political pressure placed upon you in any way shape or form?,’’ Mr Jones asked.
“No, I didn’t,’’ Supt Moller replied.
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“At any stage of the investigation, the decision to charge or the trial did you observe any other police officers? Have any political pressure placed upon them in any shape or form?,’’ Mr Jones said.
“No, I didn’t,’’ Supt Moller replied.