ACT government announces board of inquiry into trial of Bruce Lehrmann for alleged rape of Brittany Higgins

A board of inquiry will look into the conduct of ACT police and the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shane Drumgold in the prosecution of former Liberal Party adviser Bruce Lehrmann, who was accused of raping his then colleague Brittany Higgins in 2019.

The ACT government said the inquiry would assess the jurisdiction’s handling of criminal investigations to ensure prosecutions were “robust, fair” and respectful of those involved, after complaints and allegations were made in relation to the trial.

The government’s decision follows a claim from the ACT’s top prosecutor that police pressured him to abandon the case.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the allegations made about the trial were serious.

“An independent review of the roles played by the criminal justice agencies involved is the most appropriate response,” Mr Barr said.

A board of inquiry is the ACT equivalent of a royal commission.

Ms Higgins alleged Mr Lehrmann raped her in the office of then cabinet minister Linda Reynolds in Parliament House.

Mr Lehrmann has maintained his innocence and there have been no findings against him.

His initial trial ended in October after a juror engaged in misconduct, and the retrial was abandoned because of fears for Ms Higgins’s health.

Inquiry will not ‘revisit’ trial

A man wearing a green tie smiles for the camera
ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury asked that the privacy of those involved in the inquiry be respected.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty )

The inquiry will begin in the new year and will examine the Director of Public Prosecutions’ claims, which were raised in a publicly released letter to police after the trial ended, but before the retrial was dropped.

The government said the inquiry would examine interactions and conduct between both the ACT DPP and ACT Policing.

It will also look at the “appropriateness of the ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates aligning herself with the complainant”, according to a government statement.

Further, the inquiry will examine the ACT’s legal framework for addressing juror misconduct.

The government confirmed the inquiry will be able to hold public and private hearings, issue search warrants, compel the production of documents, and compel the attendance of witnesses and take their evidence on oath.

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