Lehrmann trial live updates: Closing submissions continue in Canberra

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Higgins motivated by book deal, defence alleges

Whybrow suggested Brittany Higgins revived her complaint with police in 2021 because of a $325,000 book deal offer in March.

Higgins had given her first recorded interview with investigators in February 2021, and her second in May that year.

Whybrow had previously put to Higgins – and the jury – that she originally made the complaint in an effort to keep her job after she was quizzed about entering parliament intoxicated after hours.

He said the issue re-emerged in October 2019 after a media inquiry from the Canberra Times.

He put it to the jury that Higgins was motivated by a major financial windfall to proceed with the matter last year.

The trial heard during the first week that Sydney Morning Herald columnist and author Peter FitzSimons negotiated a $325,000 advance for rape complainant Brittany Higgins to write a book.

Whybrow told the jury of this, “there are now 325,000 reasons that this case is important from her perspective.”

‘Less than frank’: Lehrmann’s barrister likens Higgins’ testimony to that of a con artist

Whybrow has likened Higgins’ testimony in the witness box to that of a con-artist.

“There’s a lot of issues you could consider in relation to Ms Higgins’ evidence in terms of what you might deem to be manipulation of evidence, or deception, or lies, or being less than frank,” he said.

“We have these things called con artists because demeanour is difficult to pick sometimes.”

Brittany Higgins had her evidence likened to that of a “con artist” by the defence lawyer in Wednesday’s closing address.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Whybrow said he wasn’t suggesting Higgins’ demeanour “or the way she reacted in the witness box” was an act.

“I don’t know,” he said, adding there was “certainly a difference between the way she presented herself in the first part of her evidence and when she came back. I suggest she was a bit more combative.”

However, he also said it was reasonable that she didn’t know what happened and was reconstructing events “to the point she now genuinely believes them to be true.”

“That doesn’t mean they are true, she’s just convinced herself,” he said. “Her demeanour in the witness box might be entirely genuine but it doesn’t mean it actually happened.“

Defence lawyer accuses Higgins of confecting story about bruise on her leg

Defence barrister Steven Whybrow has accused Higgins of making up a story about suffering a bruise to her leg during the alleged sexual assault to make her claims sound more believable.

The jury earlier saw a photo of a bruise on what Higgins said was her right leg, and which prosecutor Shane Drumgold told the jury during his closing address that Higgins “assumed” was sustained during the alleged attack.

Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyer, Steven Whybrow, arriving at the ACT Supreme Court this week.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Whybrow described the bruise as the equivalent of Higgins’ evidence about why she did not visit a doctor in the aftermath of the alleged rape. Higgins said she made several doctors’ appointments but didn’t attend any because she couldn’t face the trauma of speaking to a professional.

Whybrow accused Higgins yesterday of raising the doctors’ appointments to make herself more believable.

Whybrow said Higgins alleged in a statutory declaration in early 2021 she took the photo of the bruise on April 3, 2019, “funnily enough the day before she was wrong about having a panic attack in the bathroom.”

This was in relation to Higgins correcting another aspect of her evidence under cross-examination.
Whybrow said there was no mention of the bruise in data on her phone that had been examined by police.

“The bruise was the equivalent of going to the doctor in 2019 … it was something she made up to make it sound more believable,” he said.

Closing address continues as trial nears conclusion

Good morning, thanks for joining me on the Lehrmann trial blog again. I’ll be sitting in the public gallery keeping you up to speed with the proceedings.

Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lehrmann.Credit:Getty

Bruce Lehrmann’s barrister, Steven Whybrow, is continuing his closing address to the jury this morning. Here’s a quick recap of what we heard yesterday:

  • Prosecutor Shane Drumgold SC told the jury in his closing address Brittany Higgins was “right to be scared” of reporting her alleged rape in Parliament House to police due to the strong political forces at play from the time of her initial complaint to its airing in court.
  • He said the trial of Lehrmann was not about the culture in Parliament House, the experiences of other women in the building, or the #MeToo movement, but “what happened on a couch in a room” in the early hours of March 23, 2019.
  • However, Whybrow accused Higgins of not knowing what actually happened to her the morning she alleges she was sexually assaulted in the office of former defence industry minister Linda Reynolds, and told the jury his client had nothing to prove.
  • He accused Higgins of being “prepared to just say anything” and “throwing other people under the bus” while highlighting what he said were inconsistencies in her evidence, adding Higgins told police she made doctors’ appointments “to make it sound more believable that she had been sexually assaulted”.
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