The chief prosecutor in the trial of Bruce Lehrmann complained a crucial interview by police with Brittany Higgins looked more like a “defence cross examination”, an inquiry has heard.
Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC made the claim during his third day of questioning in an inquiry into the criminal justice system’s handling of the high-profile case.
Mr Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexually assaulting his former colleague Ms Higgins before the trial was aborted due to jury misconduct.
Mr Lehrmann has continually denied the allegation and the DPP declined to pursue a second trial due to concerns over Ms Higgins’ mental health and dropped the charges.
Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold appeared at the inquiry for a third day of questioning.
The inquiry on Wednesday was told of further tension between police and Mr Drumgold over the decision to conduct a second evidence in chief interview with Ms Higgins.
He said the AFP wanted to ask her about inconsistencies in her first interview conducted in February 2021.
“My position was if there’s any inconsistency it should be left for defence,” Mr Drumgold said.
“If there is anything over and above the basic complaint that needs to be elicited I can do that at the end of the evidence in chief interview. That was my approach.”
The inquiry heard that Mr Drumgold requested during the trial last October he be able to canvas areas already covered in the EIC interview following an objection by Mr Lehrmann’s defence barrister, Steven Whybrow SC.
Counsel assisting, Erin Longbottom KC, asked whether it was his reflection on the quality of police’s interviewing skill set.
Counsel assisting Erin Longbottom asked about Mr Drumgold’s concerns.
“The EICI looked like a cross examination … It looked to me more like a defence cross examination,” Mr Drumgold said.
“The point that I was making was, the evidence in there was not effectively led in the evidence in chief interview.”
On Wednesday, the inquiry also heard Mr Drumgold held concerns about police meeting with defence during the trial, given his belief officers involved had “displayed a passionate interest in this matter not proceeding”.
Mr Drumgold accused police involved in investigating Ms Higgins allegations of feeding “inaccurate information” in hope of derailing the case.
The DPP was also questioned over his treatment of Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, who employed Ms Higgins during the period the alleged incident took place, during the trial.
Mr Drumgold was questioned about his treatment of Senator Reynolds. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
He rejected suggestion his questioning, which included putting to her that she had organised for her partner to be in the courtroom throughout the trial to listen to the evidence, was unfounded.
“She was a witness in a trial,” he said.
“He knew that she was a witness in a trial and he ended up sitting in the courtroom.
“I felt that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence that she had facilitated that.”
The inquiry is expected to hear from central figures involved in the trial, including Mr Lehrmann‘s lawyer Steven Whybrow.
Retired judge Walter Sofronoff KC is presiding over the investigation and is due to hand down his report to the ACT government by July 31.