Cop begged Higgins to stop doing media

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One of the most senior police investigating Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation has told an inquiry that when he pleaded with her to stop doing media that could prejudice a trial, Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates told him: “She can’t, Scott – she is the face of the movement now.”

In a leaked copy of Detective Superintendent Scott Moller’s statement to the Sofronoff inquiry that was provided to The Australian newspaper, he claims Ms Yates was “more interested in Ms Higgins pushing the ‘#metoo’ movement than being committed to the upcoming trial”.

“This upset me and I remember being mad that the Victims of Crime Commissioner was using the investigation as a voice for reform before the trial had even been conducted,” he said.

In the submission, Detective Superintendent Moller also raises concerns about being pressured “to ensure victims survivors know that when they disclose sexual violence they will be believed” and disputes this is the function of police.

“This is fundamentally at odds with the investigative function of police and the purpose of the criminal justice system (judiciary and juries),” Superintendent Moller says in his submission.

“We as police are the first ‘filter’ to ensuring the integrity of the criminal justice system. The judiciary and the community require and expect police to critically assess all available information and evidence in determining if the threshold to charge has been met.”

Superintendent Scott Moller told an inquiry he pleaded with Brittany Higgins to stop doing media that could prejudice a trial. Picture: SuppliedSuperintendent Scott Moller told an inquiry he pleaded with Brittany Higgins to stop doing media that could prejudice a trial. Picture: Supplied

The Sofronoff inquiry is examining the conduct of police, the Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold and Ms Yates during the prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann.

Detective Scott Moller’s statement will be published by the Sofronoff inquiry after it was provided to The Australian newspaper.

Mr Drumgold remains on leave from his job at his own request after a week of bombshell evidence during which he was accused of misleading the ACT Supreme Court that a note of his dealing with Lisa Wilkinson was contemporaneous when it was not and withholding a document written by Detective Scott Moller that has become known as the Moller report.

The trial collapsed following juror misconduct and never proceeded to a second trial based on the DPP’s fears that providing evidence a second time posed an unacceptable risk to the complainant. The DPP eventually dropped the sexual assault charge against Mr Lehrmann.

Detective Scott Moller to give evidence at Sofronoff inquiry

Mr Moller is giving evidence at the Sofronoff inquiry today where he will outline his side of the story for the first time. The inquiry was established following complaints by the DPP that police “aligned themselves with the defence” during the trial.

In his submission, Detective Moller suggests it was the DPP who was snubbing police during the trial rather than the other way around.

He says that on the day he ­attended the trial, “I noticed that the DPP seemed to be ignoring the police”.

“ I felt like they did not want anything to do with us which in my experience was highly unusual,” he says.

Detective Superintendent Moller’s report, which was first leaked to The Australian newspaper in December is a key focus of the Sofronoff inquiry.

Detective Moller claims Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates (right) told him Brittany Higgins “is the face of the movement now” and had to do media. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian ShawDetective Moller claims Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates (right) told him Brittany Higgins “is the face of the movement now” and had to do media. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

Police criticise involvement of Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates

In his 50-page statement to the inquiry, Detective Superintendent Moller firmly rejects any suggestion that this document was supposed to be legal in confidence, as the DPP claimed when he initially resisted moves to give it to the defence.

One of the issues that the Sofronoff inquiry is also examining is the decision to allow Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates to act as a conduit between police and Ms Higgins as tension rose over their instructions not to do any media.

“I personally found her involvement frustrating and cumbersome, and she made it difficult for ACT Police to contact the victim,” Detective Supt Scott Moller says.

“The VCC acting personally in a support/conduit role complicated the investigation and was always highly inappropriate,” he says.

Ms Yates will give evidence later in the inquiry.

The submission states there was “significant external and internal pressure” to erode the threshold for charging a person with a sexual offence, and to erode investigators’ “independent and objective search for the truth”.

“It appears to me this is in response to public discourse about the treatment of survivors in the criminal justice system,” he says.

Brittany Higgins. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary RamageBrittany Higgins. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary RamageBruce Lehrmann. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ben AppletonBruce Lehrmann. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ben Appleton

Tensions between the DPP, prosecutors, police

Superintendent Moller also provides an account of what he says happened when DPP prosecutor Skye Jerome held training sessions for AFP officers.

He says Ms Jerome “was dismissive and condescending of the investigators and that many of the investigators were offended by the way she had presented”.

Superintendent Moller also claims that Ms Higgins told police she did not want to make a formal complaint in early February 2021 until after the story broke in the media.

“The significant aspects of that briefing for me was that Ms Higgins was not willing to provide a formal statement at that time and wanted to delay providing the statement until after a news article by journalist, Samantha Maiden had been published and that she had already participated in an interview with Lisa Wilkinson which was to be aired on The Project,” he says.

“I did not understand why Ms Higgins had chosen to involve the media prior to providing police with a formal statement, however my briefing articulated that Ms Higgins wanted to ensure the investigation was ‘active’ to support the media releases. This had me immediately suspicious and questioning the motives of Ms Higgins for reporting the incident.”

He says it was clear that the DPP believed there was enough evidence to charge in the case.

“I expressed the concerns I had for Ms Higgins’ psychological health, the concerns we as investigators had with the evidence and the compounding pressure and issues associated with continual media reporting,” Superintendent Moller says.

“Mr Drumgold was dismissive of our concerns and then directed the conversation to the threshold for police to seek DPP advice. I felt Mr Drumgold was highlighting that police only required reasonable suspicion to lay a charge and the DPP would decide and advise on whether there was a reasonable prospect of conviction. He was very eager for the matter to be referred to him.”

According to The Australian, police were also concerned Mr Drumgold’s contact with prominent media figures including political editor Samantha Maiden, who first broke the story of the rape allegations by Ms Higgins.

“It did make me feel uncomfortable when the evidence revealed Mr Drumgold was communicating with journalist Samantha Maiden during the investigation and well prior to trial,” Superintendent Moller says.

Multiple media outlets were in touch with Mr Drumgold in the lead up to the trial over whether or not a brief had been received after the AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw outlined the timeline in Senate estimates.

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