ACT chief prosecutor Shane Drumgold SC has told an inquiry that so many “strange things” occurred in the investigation of Brittany Higgins rape allegation and the trial that followed that he felt compelled to demand a public inquiry.
Mr Drumgold has accused police of “feeding inaccurate information” in a bid to derail the case against Bruce Lehrmann but was challenged in the inquiry whether he had “lost objectivity.”
He was asked today if he believed “a political conspiracy” was afoot and conceded he thought it was possible.
“I have not formed a view solidly one way or another, but I thought that there were enough instances to make it possible If not probable,‘’ he said.
Counsel Assisting the Inquiry Erin Longbottom said that Mr Drumgold was “making very serious allegations”.
She asked him if it was possible he had lost objectivity over the Brittany Higgins case.
According to Mr Drumgold, the investigation into Higgins’ rape allegation took ‘strange’ turns. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
He was also grilled over whether or not he was unfair to former Liberal minister Linda Reynolds when she gave evidence in the trial and he asked if her partner, who had sat in court, was taking notes for her
The prosecutor detailed his concerns about the mental health of Brittany Higgins in evidence today and how that drove his decisions in the lead up to writing a letter to the AFP deputy police commissioner Neil Gaughan demanding a public inquiry.
Brittany Higgins not consulted over public inquiry
“Did you consult Ms Higgins about a public inquiry?” counsel assisting the inquiry Erin Longbottom asked.
“No, I did not,” Mr Drumgold replied.
“My concern was so many strange things occurred and were they connected.”
“The police had a passion for this prosecution to fail. That was my observation.”
The prosecutor had complained that the AFP had improperly disclosed Ms Higgins’ confidential counselling notes to the defence and a videotape of her evidence in chief.
The disclosure is now the subject of an Australian Law Enforcement Integrity inquiry.
Chief Prosecutor Shane Drumgold SC was also grilled over whether or not he was unfair to former Liberal minister Linda Reynolds. Picture: Supplied.
“There were a number of disclosures, documents that should not have been disclosed. And then in (Linda) Reynolds engagement, The question in my mind was part of those things connected,” he said.
But the former judge Walter Sofronoff who is leading the inquiry queried Mr Drumgold’s assertions.
Mr Sofronoff said that AFP’s reluctance to charge might be more “misguided and misconceived” rather than pursuing a political agenda.
He said some police have “wholly outmoded attitudes about how victims behave … and jump to the wrong conclusion entirely.”
Ms Higgins was a staffer of former defence minister Linda Reynolds when the alleged rape occurred. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
“So that would be an obvious explanation for their antipathy because they‘re misguided and misconceived rather than that they’re pursuing some political agenda to suppress the case,’’ Mr Sofronoff said.
Mr Drumgold said he believed an inquiry was important to determine if the police were failing other women coming forward with allegations.
“Here’s some really strange events occurring,’’ Mr Drumgold said.
“What I concluded was that the criminal justice system is potentially failing.”
DPP: Police interview of Brittany Higgins was a cross examination
Earlier, the chief prosecutor Shane Drumgold SC accused the AFP of conducting a police interview with Brittany Higgins that sounded more like “a cross examination”.
Mr Drumgold said the criminal justice system is ‘potentially failing’ victims. Picture: David Gray / AFP.Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann has denied raping Brittany Higgins. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Flavio Brancaleone
In his third day of the inquiry, Mr Drumgold has given evidence on the mounting tensions between his office and the police charged with investigating the rape allegation.
The prosecutor has previously revealed that he advised the AFP against conducting a second interview with Ms Higgins.
But police decided to conduct another interview to raise discrepancies that emerged during the investigation.
“The evidence in chief looked to me more like a defence cross examination,” Mr Drumgold told the inquiry today.
He expressed concern to investigators that a second AFP interview would traumatise Ms Higgins.
“If there’s an inconsistency it should be left for defence,” he said.
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Ms Higgins had alleged that she was raped by a former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann in 2019 after work drinks.
He was never convicted and maintains his innocence. Mr Lehrmann told police that no sexual activity took place with Ms Higgins.