Brittany Higgins spoke to journalists, quit her ‘dream job’, secretly recorded a conversation with a federal minister and relaunched a police investigation into her alleged rape – all within 11 days, a court has heard.
Attorney Steven Whybrow ended the first part of his closing speech in the high-profile Bruce Lehrmann sexual assault trial on Tuesday by giving the jury an overview of Ms Higgins’ actions in early 2021.
Ms Higgins alleges that her former colleague Lehrmann raped her in the parliamentary office of former Defense Secretary Linda Reynolds in the early hours of 23 March 2019, after a night out in Canberra.
Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent. He is being tried in the ACT Supreme Court.
Mr Whybrow has relayed the timeline of Ms Higgins’ events to the jury in sequential order – starting in January 2021, just weeks before her allegations were made public.
Brittany Higgins is pictured out of court in Canberra. She claims Bruce Lehrmann raped her
On Tuesday, Lehrmann’s attorney Steven Whybrow (pictured) gave the jury an overview of Ms Higgins’ actions in early 2021
‘She got engaged to’ [News Corp journalist] Samantha Maiden in January,” he said.
“Then on January 27, 2021, she will sit with Lisa Wilkinson for six hours and there will be a taped conversation.”
Mr. Whybrow said in court that on January 28, Ms Higgins told Daniel Try, her chief of staff in Michaelia Cash’s office, that she was at a psychologist appointment the previous day – rather than being interviewed by Lisa Wilkinson.
On January 29, the court heard that Ms. Higgins was resigning as an assistant media adviser to Senator Cash.
In February, she filmed her TV interview with Lisa Wilkinson for The Project.
On February 5, Mr Whybrow told the court that Ms Higgins “recorded a conversation with Michaelia Cash – a federal minister – without her knowledge”.
He told the court that Ms. Higgins had sent the recording to journalists.
On February 6, Ms Higgins told Chief Inspector Emma Frizzell that she wanted to reopen the investigation into her alleged assault.
Bruce Lehrmann (pictured out of court on Tuesday) has pleaded not guilty to unauthorized sexual intercourse
Mr Whybrow told the jury that she had reopened the case ‘so when this story comes out she can say there is a police investigation underway so you can accept her evidence’.
Senior Constable Frizzell told the court last week that she warned Ms Higgins that talking to the media could jeopardize the investigation and any subsequent legal proceedings.
The senior agent told the court last week that she had asked Ms Higgins to participate in a formal interview that same day, but she declined.
On February 15, the News Corp story was published and Lisa Wilkinson’s interview aired.
Mr Whybrow told the court that Ms Higgins said ‘I don’t know what’s going on, the journalists are fighting and this person wants a Walkley’ – but she’s throwing other people under the bus.”
“What’s going on doesn’t suit her.”
On February 15, 2021, two news stories about Ms Higgins’ allegations were published. One of these was a TV interview with Lisa Wilkinson, host of The Project. Mrs Higgins is pictured with Wilkinson
The defense attorney then put forward a timeline that Ms. Higgins told the court she set up to give to the police.
Ms Higgins said the timeline was never intended for media distribution, but after cross-examination, she said “my partner and I were inundated with media requests” after her allegations were published.
The court heard earlier that her partner, David Sharaz, sent the file to a few journalists, but later learned that those reporters distributed it widely.
Mr Whybrow referred to the moment when he asked Ms Higgins if the media timeline had been made, to which she replied: I mean, partially sure. Originally it was only made for the police and then addendums were made. So yes, in the spirit.’
Earlier in the day, Mr Whybrow told the jury that if Lehrmann was guilty, telling his former boss Fiona Brown that he had gone into the office to drink whiskey would have been ‘about the stupidest thing you could say’.
“You’d say you came back to work. But he told Mrs. Brown—she was ready to march him out—that he was coming back to drink, not work.
“Are you satisfied he would have said that?” [if he was guilty of rape]?’
Federal police warned Brittany Higgins that talking to the media could jeopardize the trial of her alleged rapist, a court has heard
Mr Whybrow referred the jury to Ms Higgins’ initial insistence that she kept the dress she allegedly raped under her bed for about six months before washing it.
She later admitted that she was mistaken about that period when she saw a photo in court of her wearing the dress about two months after the night in question.
‘when she talks to’ [police officer] Emma Frizzell on Feb. 6, 2021, she asks about the dress and she says, “I washed it once, but I didn’t wear it,” he said.
“But she knows she’s worn it again, and she knows she’s worn it again because she remembers it or because she saw a picture of her wearing it again.
“This is a central point about whether you accept her evidence beyond a reasonable doubt or whether she said the first thing that comes to mind.
“Can you convict this man for something she says he did – there’s no DNA, no medical evidence, and she’s saying things that fit her.”
He also suggested that Ms Higgins not attending a doctor’s appointment was “a major problem.”
Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann is pictured outside the ACT Supreme Court in Canberra, where he is on trial
TIMELINE OF BRITTANY HIGGINS
During his closing statements on Tuesday, Lehrmann’s attorney Steven Whybrow told the court about Ms Higgins’ “timeline”.
He told the jury that Ms Higgins is constantly “putting the blame on someone else” — which he said was especially evident in the order in which her interviews and police statements took place in 2021.
January 27: Sat down for a six-hour talk with Lisa Wilkinson.
January 28: Told Daniel Try, her chief of staff in Michaelia Cash’s office, that she was with a psychologist the previous day—rather than being interviewed by Lisa Wilkinson.
January 29: Ms. Higgins has quit her job as an assistant media consultant for Senator Cash.
Beginning of February: Filmed her TV interview with Lisa Wilkinson for The Project.
February 5: Ms. Higgins’ recorded a conversation with her Michaelia Cash – a federal minister – without her knowledge.
February 6: Ms. Higgins told Senior Constable Emma Frizzell she wanted to reopen the investigation into her alleged assault.
15 February: News Corp story was published and Lisa Wilkinson’s interview aired.
“She tells two police officers, her on-off boyfriend and her boss that she’s going to see a doctor the next day. I made it clear to her – the reason was to make them believe she had been sexually assaulted,” he told the jury.
“The reason she didn’t was because it wasn’t necessary — she wasn’t having sex with anyone. You don’t actually go because it’s not necessary because it didn’t happen.’
Mr Whybrow took a swipe at the prosecution and suggested that the jury consider whether Ms Higgins had fabricated her accusation.
“The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” he told the jury.
“It’s not about whether she made it up—it’s not about whether I convinced you she made it up.”
He also said the prosecution’s idea of ”confirming” evidence was limited by Ms Higgins’ mother and former colleague Nikita Irvine, who told the court she seemed upset and “broken,” and that her version of events where true. was because she told people.
Mr Whybrow said this is not corroborative evidence.
“It’s to some extent pulling yourself up on your own boots,” he told the jury.
‘If you tell 100 people that something has happened, it is not true if the underlying is wrong. You must scrutinize her evidence.”
Mr Whybrow suggested to the jury that Ms Higgins had a ‘motive to make a false claim’ to save her job.
“It was her dream job. It wasn’t to work for Reynolds, it was to work in parliament,” he said.
“This is an explanation for what she did. You could end up rejecting that.
“I offer you a possible explanation. But if you reject that, the persecution will come to a halt.’
The defense attorney also questioned Ms Higgins’ credibility when asked “hard” questions.
‘If you ask a difficult question, [she] says, “I was traumatized, I couldn’t get out of bed, you don’t know what trauma is,” he told the jury.
“Maybe you think they’re completely valid answers and you think they’re fair enough, or that they’re points she said when the going got tough.”