‘Possible if not probable’: Lehrmann prosecutor suspected political conspiracy

ACT top prosecutor Shane Drumgold told an inquiry into the abandoned rape trial of former Coalition staffer Bruce Lehrmann that he thought it was “possible if not probable” there was a political conspiracy to derail the case.

In explosive evidence delivered from the witness box before the public inquiry in Canberra, ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold, SC, said a series of “strange events” occurring throughout the case led him to believe there was federal interference in the politically charged trial.

Shane Drumgold thought it was “possible if not probable” there was a political conspiracy to derail the Lehrmann case.

Alex Ellinghausen

Walter Sofronoff KC, who is helming the ACT government probe into the conduct of authorities in the case, asked Drumgold why he didn’t want police to have contact with former Coalition ministers Michaelia Cash and Linda Reynolds, both witnesses in the trial.

Drumgold responded, “one of the questions I’m raising is: is there a connection between federal interference with ACT Policing, that’s the primary concern that I have.”

The exchange was made in the context of questions in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal about a letter Drumgold sent Police Chief Neil Gaughan on November 1, 2022, days after the trial was aborted, alleging police interference in the case and pressure against him prosecuting Lehrmann.

Bruce Lehrmann arrives at the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Monday.

Alex Ellinghausen

Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting his former colleague Brittany Higgins in the parliamentary office of Reynolds – then a Coalition government minister for whom the pair both worked – after a night drinking with colleagues in March 2019.

The trial was aborted in late October due to juror misconduct, and a retrial was abandoned due to Drumgold’s fears for Higgins’ mental health.

When counsel assisting the inquiry, Erin Longbottom, KC, asked whether he thought “there was a conspiracy afoot,” Drumgold responded, “I had not formed a view one way or the other, but I thought there was enough instances to make it possible if not probable”.

Drumgold, who accused police pressuring against the prosecution of losing their objectivity, said one of his hypotheses about the conduct he observed was a “government minister exerting pressure through a federal commissioner onto ACT Policing to make the matter go away”.

Asked by Sofronoff “why would you think that?” Drumgold replied, “I’m looking at circumstantial strands. I’m looking at enthusiastic engagement by a senator, I’m looking at unprecedented pressure being placed on me and unprecedented actions being, a number of police held [the view] this matter shouldn’t proceed, and a number of other factors”.

He did not name the senator.

During the trial Drumgold had questioned Reynolds about her partner sitting at the back of the courtroom while she was giving evidence. She said she had not spoken to him about her evidence as it was made plain to her that was unacceptable.

Drumgold told the inquiry he believed there was enough circumstantial evidence Reynolds – a senator for Western Australia – had arranged for her partner to sit in the back of the courtroom for an “improper purpose”.

Sofronoff said the circumstantial evidence was simply the partner’s presence, to which Drumgold replied, “just his presence in a trial his partner is giving evidence in, on the other side of the country”.

The inquiry was told earlier ACT Policing deputy commissioner Joanne Cameron warned her police offers against speaking with Lehrmann’s barristers less than two weeks before a senior investigator allegedly told defence lawyer Steven Whybrow he would resign if the jury found him guilty.

Bruce Lehrmann and his lawyer Steven Whybrow outside the ACT Supreme Court in October last year.

Rhett Wyman

Documentation tendered to the inquiry showed Cameron emailed Drumgold on October 12, 2022, to say she held concerns about Lehrmann’s defence approaching potential police witnesses while the trial was under way.

“I hold a view that such approaches are at the very least inappropriate from the perspective of effecting the prosecution of the matter and an attempt to influence the giving of any future evidence by my members, and even the sheer fact of the perception generated by the fact that Defence counsel and police are communicating, is not acceptable,” Cameron told Drumgold.

“I have advised my staff that all potential, currently nominated or otherwise, witnesses avoid any communication with Defence counsel prior to the giving of their evidence in court or preferably, until the conclusion of the matter at court generally.”

In a statement tendered to the inquiry, Whybrow said ACT police Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman told him during a secret meeting in a Canberra backstreet near the court complex on October 24, while the jury was deliberating on his verdict, that his client was innocent.

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

Leave a Comment

Share to...