An inquiry has begun in the ACT this week into how police and prosecutors handled the Bruce Lehrmann case.
Shane Drumgold, the ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), has been the first to appear at the inquiry and has so far faced five days of questions.
Here’s what has emerged.
Bruce Lehrmann case
Bruce Lehrmann was accused of sexual assault against Brittany Higgins in 2019. He denies the allegations. The trial for this case was declared a mistrial due to jury misconduct. A re-trial was abandoned.
What is the Lehrmann inquiry?
This inquiry is about the handling of the allegations (not the allegations themselves).
As the DPP, Drumgold’s job is to decide whether to pursue any charges in court. He claims police pressured him not to charge Lehrmann and that police gave “disturbing” support to Lehrmann’s lawyers during the trial.
The Australian Federal Police, of which ACT Police is a department, have previously claimed Drumgold “compromised” the trial.
One key matter discussed so far in the inquiry is Drumgold’s suspicion that police were being pressured by government ministers, in particular Linda Reynolds, to help the defence and make the case “go away”. (The alleged sexual assault was said to have occurred in Reynolds’ office.)
On Wednesday, Drumgold told the inquiry while he had not made his mind up “solidly”, he formed a view on the basis of “strange” actions from police that it was “possible, if not probable” there was a “political conspiracy”.
However, on Thursday, Drumgold backed away from this suggestion and accepted he was wrong to have suspected interference. He said he instead concluded the “strange” actions were the result of police incompetence.
Police and government figures have not yet had the formal opportunity to respond to any suggestions raised by Drumgold at the inquiry.
In June, the Bruce Lehrmann trial was delayed after Network Ten journalist Lisa Wilkinson delivered a Logies acceptance speech for her interview with Higgins the year prior. Due to the speech and ensuing media coverage, the trial was delayed over fears it would be prejudiced.
At the time of the delay, Drumgold claimed he had ‘warned’ Wilkinson not to deliver the speech. Wilkinson disputed that claim, saying she “did not at any time” receive a warning.
This week, Drumgold admitted he should have delivered a more explicit warning and that he “entirely misread” the situation. He still maintains that he provided a general caution.