ACT crime victims’ commissioner defends accompanying Brittany Higgins during Lehrmann trial

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ACT’s victims of transgression commissioner says she would see walking a intersexual battle complainant to tribunal again and accompanying them portion they spoke to the media contempt being criticised for akin behaviour successful enactment of Brittany Higgins.

The commissioner, Heidi Yates, gave grounds connected Thursday earlier an autarkic committee of enquiry established to analyse the ACT transgression justness system’s handling of the case.

Yates has been criticised for her relation successful supporting Higgins, who alleged her erstwhile Liberal enactment workfellow Bruce Lehrmann raped her successful a minister’s bureau successful Parliament House successful March 2019.

Lehrmann, who pleaded not blameworthy to 1 number of intersexual intercourse without consent, has ever denied the allegation of rape and nary findings person been made against him.

Yates noted that concerns astir her walking into tribunal with Higgins during Lehrmann’s proceedings were not raised until aft the proceedings was completed, but that if they had been she would person considered not doing so, successful bid to beforehand “public religion and knowing successful my office”.

Yates was besides asked by counsel assisting the inquiry, Erin Longbottom KC, whether it was due that she stood adjacent to Higgins erstwhile she made a code extracurricular tribunal aft the assemblage had been discharged successful Lehrmann’s trial.

Yates said she had near the courtroom with Higgins earlier aft it appeared she was having a panic attack, and she was acrophobic Higgins could person a akin onslaught oregon adjacent illness portion addressing the media.

She said that it had go wide successful her dealings with Higgins that she lone had a tiny ellipse of radical she could trust, and that changes successful the circumstances of cases made her peculiarly vulnerable, to the constituent that she whitethorn self-harm.

Police had alerted Yates aft uncovering worldly connected Higgins’ telephone that showed she had researched self-harm, she said.

The enquiry heard Yates had sought Higgins’ support to stock details astir the grade of the enactment she provided.

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Yates said her main absorption aft the assemblage was discharged was ensuring that Higgins was safely capable to marque her mode from tribunal to her hotel.

While she had not ever stood with a complainant extracurricular tribunal erstwhile they spoke to media, she said different commissioners had done so.

But Yates said that successful hindsight she should person considered the contented of the speech, and besides would person liked to reappraisal the judge’s comments successful discharging the jury, fixed she had missed the extremity of the proceeding portion assisting Higgins.

“I’m precise unfastened to the likelihood that if I had much accusation to see I whitethorn person made a antithetic decision,” she said.

Yates besides told the enquiry that aft an interrogation with constabulary connected 26 May 2021, Det Supt Scott Moller told Higgins that the complaint could not spell up and it would “all beryllium for nothing” if she continued to talk with the media.

Yates said that Moller had antecedently made akin statements, but connected this juncture helium was louder, harsher, utilized his hands to emphasise his point, and it was “directive, alternatively than informative”.

She said Higgins “started to slump successful her chair, she started looking down, and I judge she started to cry”.

Yates said she instantly intervened, telling the enquiry she had antecedently dealt with different complainants successful intersexual battle matters who blamed themselves for charges collapsing, and wanted to guarantee Higgins and constabulary knew it would not beryllium the complainant’s responsibility if a akin result occurred successful the Lehrmann case.

The erstwhile Queensland solicitor wide Walter Sofronoff, who is chairing the inquiry, said that it appeared Moller was saying 2 things: that Higgins should not talk to the media, and that if she did the lawsuit would collapse.

Yates confirmed to Sofronoff that her crushed for intervening was related to the 2nd constituent of Moller’s directive: that Higgins would beryllium to blasted if the lawsuit collapsed.

The proceeding continues.

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