The top cop who oversaw police investigating Brittany Higgins rape allegation has hit back at claims he held outdated views about complainants telling an inquiry he is himself a survivor of sexual assault.
Detective Superintendent Scott Moller was asked today at the inquiry into the prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann whether he had any life experiences that informed his policing.
Detective Superintendent Scott Moller. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
“I’m a survivor. 45 years ago, I was a victim of sexual assault, and I lived with that for 45 years, and that has driven my desire to work with police and victims,” he said.
In his third day in the witness box, a reflective Supt Moller said he now understood more about where the Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates was coming from.
Despite previously criticising her involvement when she advocated for Ms Higgins, he now conceded she had helped police.
Stop doing media
The inquiry heard of a difficult meeting where Supt Moller bluntly told Ms Higgins to “stop doing the media” and warned her if the trial didn‘t go ahead of this it would “all be for nothing.”
But Ms Yates responded to reassure Ms Higgins that she had already done a lot to change laws and spark reform.
Victims of Crime Commissioner for the Act Heidi Yates (left) with Brittany Higgins (right). Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Inquiry chair Walter Sofronoff said that on reflection her remarks were more about reassuring Ms Higgins and supporting her if the matter did not proceed to charge.
He said Ms Yates was most likely trying to reassure Ms Higgins so that she didn’t feel “demolished” by Supt Moller’s warnings.
Barrister Dr Peggy Dwyer, who is acting for Ms Yates also put it to Supt Moller that her client never said to him that Ms Higgins could not stop doing media because she was “the face of a movement.”
Supt Moller rejected this. He said the words had “stuck in his mind” although he conceded he did not take notes at the time.
He was also pressed on whether ACT police were undercharging alleged offenders and relying on “rape myths” to stereotype how victims should behave.
Supt Moller told the inquiry he was “proud” that the detectives had pushed through and charged Mr Lehrmann despite doubts about the case and concerns about taking the matter to court.
“They [investigators] had deeply seated views in relation to not having sufficient evidence and even though they had those views they pushed forward against their own beliefs,” he said.
“I don’t think they lost objectivity because when we decided to go through and charge that was our direction.
“Even though they had their views, and this ties back to what I said earlier about us being a semi-military organisation. We’ve seen evidence where members of the investigation felt sick when they found out we were going to move forward to charge, they still did it.
“Our opinion in some respects is not as important as the greater good. Like I said, we followed the process, we took the director’s advice and we went through the prosecution.”
Supt Moller appearing before the Sofronoff inquiry on May 22.
Supt Moller conceded the sexual assault team was often used as a training ground for “budding detectives”.
“They are young, very inexperienced officers. We take pride in the fact that a lot of the experience is gained with us before they move on into other parts of the organisation,” he said.
Higgins’ boyfriend’s emails to cops revealedRepeated media warning Higgins ‘ignored’
But he rejected claims by the DPP Shane Drumgold’s barrister that ACT police were undercharging compared to other jurisdictions.
“The team that works on sex assault cases are a dedicated, professional group of investigators,” he said. “From my perspective, the data is not accurate.”