Shock claim about cops in Lehrmann case
Bruce Lehrmann’s barrister says he was told by a senior police officer that he believed the former political staffer was not guilty, an inquiry has been told.
Defence barrister Steven Whybrow SC made the claim in a statement tendered to 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.
Mr Whybrow said Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman told him that if the jury returned a guilty verdict that he would resign.
“On 25 October 2022, DI Boorman sent me a message asking if I could have a chat over a coffee, which I agreed to do,” Mr Whybrow said in his signed statement.
“When I saw him, he appeared to me to be anxious and agitated and concerned we not be seen speaking together in direct line of sight of the (Director of Public Prosecutions).
“... DI Boorman indicated to me that he was quite distressed about this prosecution and considered that Mr Lehrmann was innocent.
“He made several other comments along these lines and I recall he said words to the effect ‘if the jury comes back with a guilty verdict, I’m resigning’.”
Mr Whybrow said he had “never before had a conversation with a police officer who had indicated that they were going to resign because they had been ordered to prosecute someone they considered was innocent.”
Mr Whybrow also said in his statement that Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC had referred to Inspector Boorman and another senior officer, Detective Superintendent Scott Moller, as “boofheads”.
Mr Whybrow said the comments were made by Mr Drumgold during the trial as they were discussing whether they would be required to give evidence.
“Mr Drumgold SC approached me and, in the context of a discussion as to what evidence might be led from DI Boorman or DS Moller, said words to the following effect: ‘Any opinion by those boofheads about the strength of this case is not admissible’.” Mr Whybrow said.
Mr Drumgold is the first witness to appear before the inquiry and has spent the last two days in the witness box.
The ACT’s top prosecutor told the inquiry that documents which could have been “crushing” to Ms Higgins were not deliberately withheld from Mr Lehrmann’s defence because of his concerns over them.
Mr Drumgold was on Tuesday questioned by counsel assisting the inquiry, Erin Longbottom KC, why he made a submission that an investigative review document fell under legal professional privilege and should not be provided to the defence.
“Clearly error, clearly error,” Mr Drumgold said, saying he mistakenly believed it was contained within the brief of evidence.
The investigative review documents contained criticism of Ms Higgins by police, the inquiry was told.
Mr Drumgold was asked by Ms Longbottom whether he felt “frustration” that the documents had been produced in response to a subpoena.
“I don’t recall feeling frustration at it,” Mr Drumgold said.
“It’s clear that the document showed a strong bias as a discrete document.”
When pressed on whether he was concerned about it being given to the defence, Mr Drumgold said he was concerned it could be harmful to Ms Higgins.
“Well, I didn’t think it should fall into (the defence’s) hands because essentially it says a senior police officer through a stereotype, bias analysis has drawn particular conclusions about a complainant,” Mr Drumgold said.
“I mean it’s potentially terribly harmful to a complainant if that document finds its way into a court.”
Mr Drumgold said he was concerned it could be “crushing” to Ms Higgins.
“Well, I had some concerns this would be crushing to the complainant,” Mr Drumgold told the inquiry.
When asked if his opinion about the “crushing” nature of the documents formed part of his opposition to its disclosure, he said: “I don’t think so. I mean it features nowhere in my submissions, my thought processes were in my submissions.”
Mr Lehrmann, who is not expected to provide evidence to the inquiry.