Prosecutor Drops Australia Parliament Rape Case, Citing Toll on Accuser

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Mental trauma that Brittany Higgins faced from the proceedings presented a “significant and unacceptable risk” to her life, the authoritative said.

The defendant, Bruce Lehrmann, leaving tribunal  successful  Canberra, Australia, successful  October.
Credit...Mick Tsikas/EPA, via Shutterstock

By Yan Zhuang

Yan Zhuang reported this communicative from Canberra and Melbourne successful Australia.

Dec. 1, 2022, 11:06 p.m. ET

Prosecutors person dropped a rape complaint against a erstwhile parliamentary unit subordinate successful a lawsuit that has gripped Australia for months, a determination they called indispensable to support the plaintiff’s wellness aft she had endured rounds of grueling questioning successful an archetypal mistrial.

The plaintiff, Brittany Higgins, 28, had accused a colleague, Bruce Lehrmann, 27, of raping her wrong Australia’s Parliament gathering successful 2019. Her accusation, which prompted thoroughfare protests by women crossed the country, brought uncommon scrutiny to some Australia’s insular halls of powerfulness and the mode its transgression justness strategy treats complainants successful intersexual battle cases.

On Friday, the pb prosecutor, Shane Drumgold, announced that helium would not question a retrial aft the archetypal proceedings had been halted successful precocious October due to the fact that of juror misconduct.

While helium said helium inactive believed helium could person secured a conviction, the continuing intelligence trauma that Ms. Higgins faced from the proceedings presented a “significant and unacceptable risk” to her life, helium said. “Ms. Higgins has faced a level of idiosyncratic onslaught I’ve not seen successful implicit 20 years of doing this work,” Mr. Drumgold said.

Emma Webster, a person of Ms. Higgins, released a connection connected her behalf saying that Ms. Higgins was presently successful a infirmary “receiving the attraction and enactment she needs.”

“The past mates of years person been hard and unrelenting,” the connection said.

In a state wherever intersexual battle trials are usually shrouded successful secrecy, the high-profile proceeding enactment connected show the aggravated idiosyncratic scrutiny to which accusers successful specified cases are often subjected, experts said. Ms. Higgins underwent days of fierce cross-examination from defence lawyers who accused her of making up her accusation, adjacent arsenic she said she was definite that Mr. Lehrmann “was physically violating me.”

After the proceedings was abandoned, Ms. Higgins gave a code condemning the mode she had been treated by the ineligible system. “I ne'er afloat understood however asymmetrical the transgression justness strategy is, but I bash now,” she said, adding that she had felt arsenic if she were the 1 connected trial.

“This is the world of however complainants successful intersexual battle cases are treated,” she said. “Their lives are torn apart, their friends and families are called to the witnesser basal and the accused has the ineligible close to accidental perfectly nothing.”


Credit...Mick Tsikas/AAP Image, via Associated Press

Ms. Higgins archetypal went nationalist with her accusation past year, erstwhile she appeared connected prime-time tv to accidental that she had been sexually assaulted successful the defence minister’s bureau by a workfellow aft a nighttime of drinking. Her accusation acceptable disconnected a question of choler astatine what galore pistillate lawmakers person called a toxic and misogynistic civilization successful Australia’s Parliament.

After the proceedings began this October, Ms. Higgins described successful item her recollection of being raped — and, later, of being discouraged from going to the constabulary by members of the authorities that employed her.

Soon aft entering the defence minister’s bureau with Mr. Lehrmann, Ms. Higgins said, she blacked out. She aboriginal woke up connected the sofa successful the minister’s backstage suite to find Mr. Lehrmann sexually assaulting her, she said. In a taped interrogation with the constabulary that was played for the court, she said she had told Mr. Lehrmann nary respective times. “It wasn’t acknowledged,” she said. “He conscionable kept going.”

Mr. Lehrmann said that determination had been nary intersexual interaction and that helium had ne'er entered the backstage suite. When the 2 arrived astatine the defence minister’s office, helium told the police, helium went to his table and Ms. Higgins went to the backstage suite, aft which “I didn’t spot her again.”

He said helium spent astir 45 minutes preparing immoderate documents, picked up what helium needed for the play and called an Uber. Mr. Lehrmann did not testify; his recorded constabulary interrogation was played successful court.

In its cross-examination, the defence suggested to Ms. Higgins a half-dozen times that she had made up the accusation against Mr. Lehrmann retired of interest for her occupation arsenic a parliamentary unit member, aft Mr. Lehrmann had been fired for what the defence minister’s bureau called a “security breach.”

Ms. Higgins admitted that her representation of the nighttime was patchy. The pb defence lawyer, Steven Whybrow, argued that she did not really retrieve being sexually assaulted.

She was questioned dozens of times astir what the defence described arsenic inconsistencies successful her account. One of Mr. Lehrman’s lawyers asked wherefore she had not gone to a doc soon aft the nighttime successful question, contempt telling others that she would; wherefore she had deleted substance messages from her phone; and wherefore she had talked to the quality media earlier sitting down for a ceremonial constabulary interview.

Ms. Higgins repeatedly rejected the proposition that she had invented her accusation, sometimes weeping. “I’m not a monster; I would ne'er bash thing similar that,” she said connected 1 occasion. On another, she said: “He was successful my body. I know.”

Julia Quilter, a instrumentality prof astatine the University of Wollongong, said the defense’s tactics invoked galore tropes communal to intersexual battle cases, similar the story of the “true” unfortunate who instantly seeks a aesculapian exam and goes to the police, and who recounts events with cleanable consistency successful each retelling.

The result “draws attraction to the information that these types of matters instrumentality unthinkable tolls connected each complainants,” Professor Quilter said. “And it whitethorn good discourage radical from coming guardant and reporting intersexual assaults if they deliberation this is what’s going to hap to them.”


Credit...AAP Image/Lukas Coch, via Reuters

Sarah Maddison, a governmental subject prof astatine the University of Melbourne, called the determination not to question a retrial a “reminder that the Australian ineligible strategy is hostile to women.” She said it would promote those who person downplayed accusations that sexism and harassment are wide successful the capital, Canberra.

“It volition beryllium concern arsenic accustomed successful Canberra,” Professor Maddison said. “The ‘boys’ club’ tin transportation connected knowing they won’t beryllium held accountable by our ineligible system.”

The prosecution of Mr. Lehrmann was successful immoderate ways besides a proceedings of Australia’s governmental system, with a parade of senators, unit members and parliamentary information guards giving evidence.

The proceedings raised questions astir however the blimpish Liberal Party had treated Ms. Higgins aft her disclosure. Mr. Drumgold, the prosecutor, grilled Liberal senators and unit members astir erstwhile they had go alert of the accusation and whether they had discouraged Ms. Higgins from filing a constabulary report.

Ms. Higgins said that she was made to consciousness she would suffer her occupation if she did so, and that the Liberal Party had treated the contented as a governmental problem with a national predetermination looming. That assertion was vehemently denied by Linda Reynolds, the erstwhile defence caput and Ms. Higgins’s onetime boss, successful her testimony.

Another Liberal legislator for whom Ms. Higgins had worked, Michaelia Cash, denied that it could person been politically embarrassing oregon harmful for the enactment if the allegation became public. “I conscionable don’t recognize a governmental transportation to this,” she said.

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