Former parliamentary staffer Bruce Lehrmann, who was accused of raping fellow staffer Brittany Higgins in Parliament House, has been identified as the high-profile man accused of rape in another case.
The Higgins case
Lehrmann stood trial for the alleged rape of Higgins, and the outcome of that was a debacle as the jury was discharged after one juror had engaged in misconduct. The case triggered the Sofronoff enquiry, which found that the prosecutor Shane Drumgold had engaged in serious misconduct, and which led to the prosecutor’s resignation and calls for more such inquiries.
On Channel 7’s Spotlight program aired on 4 June 2023, Lehrmann stated “Let’s light some fires” and later said “Everything needs to be out there, in the open, so people can assess this for what it is”.
The Toowoomba case
The latest charges relate to an alleged incident in October 2021 with a woman Lehrmann met in a nightclub only weeks after he first appeared in a Canberra court with respect to the Brittany Higgins allegations.
The naming of Lehrmann in relation to the Toowoomba case is the result of the recent repeal of Queensland laws that suppressed the identity of the accused in sexual assault cases until or unless they are committed to stand trial, and a suppression order being lifted by Queensland Supreme Court judge Peter Applegarth.
Non-publication order refused
Lehrmann sought a non-publication order pursuant to s 7 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1978 (Qld).
Justice Applegarth’s judgment refusing to make such an order contains the following comment:
“The parties accepted that evidence of the applicant’s presentation on television in recent months, his active prosecution of pending defamation cases, and his seeking or not seeking professional treatment and support during 2023 was relevant evidence.
Dr Brown’s report addressed these matters.”
Justice Applegarth also made the following concluding observations:
“The Magistrate was entitled to take into account a submission from the media entities that any person accused of a serious crime can be expected to suffer a degree of mental harm by reason of the stress of being involved in the court process. Having assessed the evidence, the Magistrate was not satisfied that an order was necessary to protect the safety of the applicant. The evidence included the presentation of the applicant in media interviews, and the fact that he made no mention in them of being in a poor psychological state for reasons he did not wish to disclose to the public. Instead, he presented to the public, for reasons that neither he, his solicitor nor his psychologist adequately explained to the Magistrate, as someone who was keen to litigate pending defamation cases and “light some fires”
“The Magistrate’s decision did not lack an intelligible justification. The justification was that the demanding requirement of being satisfied that the order is “necessary” was not established by sufficiently persuasive evidence to support that conclusion.”