Andrew L. Urban
The public already knew that Bruce Lehrmann denies raping Brittany Higgins in Minister Linda Reynolds’ parliamentary office on March 23, 2019. He confidently confirmed his denial in Channel 7’s Spotlight with Liam Bartlett (Sunday, June 4, 2023). What was new was the amount of strategising that was undertaken by ‘Team Wilkinson’ prior to her Higgins interview on TEN’s The Project.
‘Team Wilkinson’ – Wilkinson, her producer Angus Llewellyn, Higgins and her boyfriend David Sharaz – recorded their lengthy group session on January 27, 2021, a few days before filming The Project interview, which went to air on February 15. Their planning as to how best to leverage Higgins’ allegation and give it political momentum, is the most revealing (and damning) aspect of the Spotlight episode.
It is in stark contrast to the most powerful comment made by Bruce Lehrmann. At the end of the interview, he accuses ACT’s DPP Shane Drumgold of denying him the chance of a not guilty verdict, by dropping the rape charge after the trial was aborted (jury misconduct) but then telling the media he was still confident of a conviction.
Lehrmann concludes this comment with a quiet “What the fuck…” To Lehrmann, it would have felt like the crowning injustice in a process he insists was based on a false allegation. A false allegation that caused him huge emotional and reputational damage.
(Drumgold said he was dropping the case “in the public interest” but in the same sentence claimed that it was in consideration of the accuser’s health.)
In the strategy meeting, Higgins told Wilkinson she could find some friendly MPs who could use question time in parliament to put the matter into the parliament. Sharaz told the group: “I’ve got a friend in Labor, Katy Gallagher on the Labor side, who will probe and continue it going.” Higgins suggested Tanya Plibersek, to which Sharaz said, “Yeah.”
At one stage Higgins tells the group: “We’re doing a parliamentary showcase before all this starts. So it’s going to be great, we’re having fun.”
“I don’t want to put words in your mouth,” Wilkinson says to Higgins, before putting words in her mouth… “but if you can enunciate the fact that this place is all about suppression of people’s natural sense of justice.”
And in a sobering moment of reflection during the meeting, Higgins says “If he wants to go me after, like on a civil basis, I think, on the balance of probabilities, I think I could win. I think it’s, …if the onus of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, I think that would be different. I don’t think I could win that.”
### The Board of Inquiry into the handling of the aborted trial and the management of the case by police and the DPP chaired by Walter Sofronoff KC began public hearings on May 8, 2023. The first witness was Drumgold, who made a number of admissions, including that it “never occurred” to him to tell Higgins that he (alone) had read her confidential counselling notes, nor that he should step down from the case after reading them.
Counsel assisting, Erin Longbottom KC, asked Drumgold about his December press statement where he lauded Higgins’ bravery and dignity after announcing he would not retry Lehrmann.
Longbottom: “Did you turn your mind to the impact that statement might have on Mr Lehrmann, who was entitled to the presumption of innocence?”
Drumgold: “Possibly not as much as I should have.”
Disclosure: Andrew L. Urban has been invited to assist Bruce Lehrmann with writing a book about his experiences in this affair.