‘Verdict first, trial later’: How the feminists almost imprisoned Bruce Lehrmann

‘Verdict first, trial later’: How the feminists almost imprisoned Bruce Lehrmann. By Janet Albrechtsen.

The presumption of innocence and the right to due process have been dangerously warped by the #MeToo movement, Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyer Steven Whybrow SC has claimed, in his first interview since Mr Lehrmann went on trial over Brittany Higgins’ rape ­allegations.

“This was ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Sentence first or verdict first, trial later,” Mr Whybrow says of the pre-trial publicity around the case.

“There was so much material out there that was just simply ‘he’s guilty’ and we’ve just got to go through this process of a trial. I saw that as a significant undermining of the rule of law and the ­presumption of innocence and due process.

“We all know this happens all the time: this guy’s been accused of this, so therefore it happened. And along the way, anybody who tried to argue the contrary narrative was treated as somehow morally deficient.” …

Even the lawyers provided by the bureaucracy demanded Bruce agree to her version:

Mr Whybrow’s comments came as Mr Lehrmann revealed for the first time that when he tried to get legal assistance for his ­defence, Legal Aid ACT insisted it would not allow Ms Higgins to be challenged in court as a liar, but simply “perhaps mistaken about versions of events”. …

Mr Lehrmann said the agency also rejected Mr Whybrow as “too aggressive” to take on the case. …

Mr Whybrow ultimately took on the case pro bono after Mr Lehrmann refused to accept the Legal Aid conditions. …

“Bruce was just horrified that they’re not even going to run his defence, which was: she’s lying, she made it up, this did not happen – and to just say, ‘oh no, you misunderstood, you were mistaken’,” Mr Whybrow said. “So he became very distressed.” …

Mr Lehrmann said he was stunned that the agency was demanding he accept a defence strategy that contradicted his account of what occurred in Parliament House after a night out drinking with colleagues in Canberra. Mr Lehrmann has consistently maintained, including in his statement to police, that there was no sexual contact of any kind with Ms Higgins and that after they got to Senator Reynolds’ suite, he went left and Ms Higgins turned right, and he didn’t see her again. …

Brittany did not the tell the truth sometimes:

The former Crown prosecutor pursued a forceful approach at the trial, describing Ms Higgins as “unreliable” and someone “who says things to suit her”.

Mr Whybrow told jurors she had lied about seeing a doctor to “make it more believable” she had allegedly been sexually assaulted.

He outlined a number of instances when Ms Higgins was forced to concede she had given wrong evidence, including the length of time a white dress was kept in a plastic bag under her bed and a three-hour panic attack on a day she later conceded she had been having a valedictory lunch for former politician Steven Ciobo.

“The person bringing the allegation is prepared to just say anything,” Mr Whybrow told jurors.

Biased bureaucrats:

Mr Whybrow expressed strong concerns over the role of ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates, who often accompanied Ms Higgins to court.

“The problem in this case — and it’s not just my perception, it’s one that I know a lot of people have shared – is that by walking next to Ms Higgins into court every day as the statutory office holder of the position of the Victims of Crime Commissioner – and that would be videoed every morning, it would be in the papers and the news that night – it carried with it a less-than-subtle and a less-than-subconscious inference that Ms Higgins was in fact a victim.

“It was about as subtle as if Ms Yates had walked in wearing a T-shirt, saying ‘Bruce is guilty’, Mr Whybrow said.

“This case has demonstrated, in my view, an insidious and underappreciated issue, which is this conflict and this tension and this slow bracket creep between the presumption of innocence on the one hand, and ‘believe all women’ – or in a sexual assault case, ‘people don’t make anything up’ – that is undermining a presumption of innocence.

So close to railroaded by the feminist mob:

“Frankly, if it wasn’t for Lisa Wilkinson’s speech at the Logies, Bruce would probably be in jail. Thank God for that speech.” …

Whybrow points to the public statements during and after the Logies, “again, basically saying Ms Higgins is a true victim of a true crime and the trial is just a formality”. “We needed a stay in order to put some distance from that speech in the minds of any potential jurors.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum agreed, as she said through “gritted teeth”, and delayed the trial for three months.

Whybrow explains the delay was critical to the defence: “If it wasn’t for Ms Wilkinson’s speech, we would have gone into that trial without so much material that we subsequently came into possession of, either through chasing up disclosure or chasing up subpoenas … integral to properly understanding and challenging the complainant’s allegations. …

One of the documents the defence team needed was the Moller Report, formally labelled the Investigative Review document. … The 64-page document was finally handed over to Lehrmann’s team … under subpoena from the police, who agreed the defence should have it. It included pages of discrepancies police discovered during their investigation, including inconsistencies in Higgins’ statements to police.

The winners: Brittany got her $3m payout from the bureaucracy despite (because of?) her lies, the feminists got to hold rallies and stir up outrage, and the Labor Party managed to embarrass the Morrison government.

The losers: Everybody else, especially Bruce Lehrmann.