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Jury mulls verdict on man accused of Brittany Higgins’ rape

Brittany Higgins has confirmed a civil claim for damages agains two senators and the Commonwealth.

Brittany Higgins has confirmed a civil claim for damages agains two senators and the Commonwealth. Photo: AAP

Brittany Higgins does not know what happened on the night she alleges she was raped but possibly convinced herself it occurred, a jury has heard.

Closing arguments in the trial of the man accused of raping Ms Higgins scrutinised her credibility on Wednesday, before the jury was sent at 2.58pm to deliberate on three weeks of evidence.

Before they departed, a ballot was held to randomly remove four members of the panel of 16. That left a jury of eight women and four men to consider the charge against Bruce Lehrmann.

Ms Higgins alleges Mr Lehrmann, who is being tried in the ACT Supreme Court, raped her inside a ministerial office in Parliament House after a night out drinking with colleagues.

He denies the pair ever had sex and has pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent.

Defence lawyer Steven Whybrow said if Ms Higgins had convinced herself that she had been raped, her emotions in the witness box may have been genuine.

“We have these things called con artists because demeanour is a difficult thing for people to pick up sometimes,” he said in his closing argument on Wednesday.

“She (Ms Higgins) has reconstructed events to the point that she now genuinely believes they are true. That doesn’t mean they are true,” he said.

He told the jury there were few statements Ms Higgins presented as facts that had not been demonstrated to be suspect in the trial.

He said there was no DNA evidence or medical complaints to support Ms Higgins’ version of events, but instead “contemporaneous lies” about visiting a doctor.

Mr Whybrow used an example of a photograph of a bruise Ms Higgins said she took after the alleged assault.

He said there was no evidence that bruise had anything to do with that night.

“She’s been caught out. Other people have come along and checked … and there’s no evidence of this,” he said.

Before excusing the jury for deliberations, Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said they must act impartially, without emotion or prejudice and give a true verdict according to the evidence presented in the courtroom.

“You are not answerable to popular opinion … whichever way you may think it sways,” she said.

“Your verdict, whether it be guilty or not guilty, must be unanimous.”

She reminded jurors of the importance of the presumption of Mr Lehrmann’s innocence and that it was up to the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mr Lehrmann exercised his right to silence and did not enter the witness box during the trial. Instead the jury was played his police interview.

Chief Justice McCallum said his decision not to give evidence in court could not be used as an admission of guilt and did not strengthen the prosecution’s case.

Earlier Mr Whybrow told the jury Ms Higgins had 325,000 reasons to push ahead with her rape accusation.

This was in reference to the $325,000 book deal Ms Higgins was offered after giving two media interviews about her rape allegation in 2021.

Prosecutor Shane Drumgold on Tuesday said Ms Higgins had been a credible and honest witness whose version of events that night had not wavered.

Meanwhile, he said Mr Lehrmann had given inconsistent accounts about his reasons for being at parliament on the night of the alleged assault to the security guards, to his boss and to the police.

Mr Drumgold also said after the alleged rape Ms Higgins was caught in the middle of “strong political forces”.

“We say she was right to be scared, she was right to be cautious and she was right to move slowly and carefully,” he said.

But Mr Whybrow told the jury on Wednesday that, other than Ms Higgins, no other witnesses had given evidence about “political forces” at play.

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-with AAP

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