ACT’s ‘Justice System’ Reconfigured to Snare Men

ACT’s ‘Justice System’ Reconfigured to Snare Men. By Bettina Arndt.

We now have the report of the ACT inquiry into the handling of the Higgins case …

Here was the new victim-centred justice system fully on display, showing utter contempt for the presumption of innocence and rights of the accused.

But the real revelation was the key role played in this new system by the ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates, who had police and prosecutors dancing to her tune — her ambitious objective being the remaking of the way the criminal justice system handles sexual assault.

Yates’ antics had me reeling since they exposed just how completely a criminal law system can be subverted when placed in the hands of an ideologue.

We all witnessed this po-faced creature, trotting every day into court alongside Brittany Higgins — an act which Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyer, Steve Whybrow, described as like wearing a “Bruce is guilty” T-shirt. This woman is a lawyer, yet we saw her standing by while Higgins ignored the judge’s contempt of court rules to spew out an attack on Lehrmann and the justice system after the case was declared a mistrial. …

As well as the Victims of Crime Commissioner, Yates is a member of the ACT Human Rights Commission … She proudly described how, in 2021, after extensive policy work and consultation, the ACT had introduced a Charter of Rights, which promotes new rights for complainants designed “to balance” classic human rights — presumably, the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.

The Charter of Rights tilts the scales firmly in the complainant’s favour. “In practical terms we start from a position of belief,” Yates explained. Belief in the woman’s story. She added, “If they are telling us that they have suffered harm because of an offence, we believe that in the first instance.” Well, not just in the first instance. Yates apparently clung to her belief in Higgins story even after the police’s extensive investigation revealed her evidence didn’t stack up, and after Higgins’ lies were exposed in cross-examination.

[The Lehrman trial was] a lead-up to roll out of a whole new system of “victim-centric, trauma-informed justice” which Yates boasted on ABC radio would “reverberate around the nation.” …

No one looking back at Yates’ work history would be surprised by her indifference to men’s rights. She had years of advocacy for LGBTQI organisations and women’s legal groups before working for ACT Legal Aid, which she headed up just prior to taking on her current roles. It’s hardly surprising then, that Bruce Lehrmann was told by ACT Legal Aid that their lawyers weren’t prepared to allow Higgins “to be challenged in court as a liar” and, further, that they wouldn’t use Steve Whybrow as a barrister because he was too aggressive. …

It was enlightening during the inquiry watching these police officers being cross-examined by hostile barristers, as they staunchly defended their right to do the work of determining whether there was sufficient evidence to charge Lehrmann. There was the senior officer, for instance, who threatened to resign if Lehrmann was charged. And the intriguing diary note from the big boss, Policing Commander Michael Chew, apparently commenting on some of Higgins’ evidence: “Everything else is made up.” Naturally he was leaned on by the lawyers to deny that was the case.

But also chilling to see these officers, particularly Moller, who seems a good bloke, forced to mouth the platitudes required for this new feminist climate, giving assurances about the importance of Yates’ work and the value of victim-centric, trauma-informed justice. …

The police did their job, but it was obvious this showcase was going to trial. Politicians, women’s groups, and the media were baying for blood. And they had Drumgold making it clear he intended to prosecute the case, no matter what.

So, while Bruce Lehrmann and his lawyers were preparing for the criminal trial, police involved with sexual assault cases were discovering their world had changed. … Police were informed that the mere fact that the complainant had been interviewed could be sufficient to result in charging. No longer were police to reach their own decision about whether a case had legs. No need for cogent evidence or thorough investigations. A woman’s “truth” would be all that is required.

It looks as though we have reached the frightening position where a rape case should go to trial even if investigators don’t believe a complainant, i.e. that they conclude no offence was committed. Somehow it is considered that a jury could still find such a case proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Who left feminists in charge of justice?