Contradictions have appeared in evidence given by Linda Reynolds as to what happened on the night of the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.
*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape
MANY QUESTIONS have arisen as a consequence of former Defence Minister Linda Reynolds recanting her sworn evidence given at the trial of Bruce Lehrmann (who was charged with the rape of her staffer, Brittany Higgins) during Reynolds’ interview with Liam Bartlett on Channel 7's Spotlight program last Sunday evening.
The trial was aborted owing to juror misconduct. Lehrmann has denied the charges and no verdict was brought.
The crucial timeline and relevant documents detailing when Reynolds knew what are recorded by Glen Schaefer on Twitter and accessible in full here:
Having stated in court that she did not know of any sexual element in the events that took place in her office in March 2019 and specifically that she was unaware of Ms Higgins alleging that Lehrmann had been on top of her, Reynolds backtracked on Sunday night.
Reynolds claimed that she believed she spoke the truth during the trial and had only since become aware of her then chief of staff, Fiona Brown’s evidence to the contrary:
During the trial, Ms Brown confirmed she was aware by Friday that Ms Higgins had told her in a meeting “I remember him on top of me.”
Ms Brown also told the Supreme Court that she informed Senator Reynolds what Ms Higgins had said before their 1 April meeting with Ms Higgins in her ministerial suite.
Ms Reynolds has denied this under oath and in Parliament.
Reynolds was questioned in court about the contradiction between her account and that of her chief of staff:
The contradiction was the first question that the Director of Public Prosecutions asked after he sought permission from the court to effectively cross examine her as a hostile witness.
“I am going to suggest that you knew that there was a sexual element the previous Saturday?,‘’ Mr Drumgold said.
“No, I did not,‘’ Senator Reynolds replied.
“I am suggesting to you that you were aware that Ms Higgins had made an allegation about Mr Lehrmann being on top of her at this stage?,‘’ Mr Drumgold continued.
“I was not,‘’ she replied.
This appears to contradict Ms Brown’s evidence that she had informed Reynolds of Higgins’ allegation prior to the 1 April meeting with Higgins and that Reynolds had, based on Brown’s information, instructed Brown to inform the police.
Reynolds has not yet publicly explained why she instructed Ms Brown to inform police if she was unaware of Higgins’ allegations. Had Reynolds believed only a security breach had occurred, as she claimed, there appears to be no reason for her to give these instructions to Brown.
‘Ms Brown said that Senator Reynolds was insistent that Ms Higgins should go to the police and wanted Ms Brown to report it even without Ms Higgins' consent. The idea alarmed Ms Brown.’
Reynolds claimed in her interview with Bartlett that only since post-trial discussions with Brown has she recalled information she claims to have forgotten during questioning at trial by Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold.
It does seem extraordinary that a minister would have such serious discussions with her chief of staff and not bother to keep any notes. The matter discussed was alarming and possibly criminal, yet Reynolds apparently kept no record of it.
I am, of course, only assuming Reynolds kept no record because if she did, why would she not consult that record before giving evidence in the Lehrmann trial, thus ensuring that nothing was left to her apparently unreliable memory?
As the trial was aborted, we don’t have to worry about the quite possibly serious effects on a jury of hearing contradictory rather than corroborating evidence on the alleged victim’s allegations.
Reynolds has already issued Higgins with an “unreserved apology” for her handling of the rape allegations.
Perhaps we can anticipate a further apology for Reynolds’ astonishing loss of memory about Higgins’ allegation that Lehrmann was on top of her and her denial, under oath, that the former minister was aware of any “sexual element” in the events that took place in her office.
If you would like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.