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Jury seeks ‘extra time’ for Lehrmann verdict

The push for change came in the days after the first Bruce Lehrmann trial was aborted.

The push for change came in the days after the first Bruce Lehrmann trial was aborted. Photo: AAP

A jury in the trial of the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins has asked the court for a “little extra time” to consider their verdict.

Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent and is facing a criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court.

The jury retired last week after the prosecution closed its case following a 12-day trial.

On Monday, Chief Justice Lucy McCallum told the court she had received a note from the jury, the first since they entered the deliberation room.

“We have not yet reached an agreement of beyond reasonable doubt, we ask the court to give us a little extra time to complete our deliberation. Could you please advise on time expectations,” the note said.

Justice McCallum told the jury they could and should take all the time they need.

She said they should not feel any pressure from people waiting for the verdict.

“There’s no rush. There’s no time limit,” she said.

Justice McCallum said anyone other than the accused and complainant waiting for the verdict was choosing to do so.

“There’s no pressure from anyone on you,” she said.

She instructed the jurors to complete their oath to find a verdict according to the evidence presented in the courtroom.

On Friday, she reminded them Mr Lehrmann was presumed innocent and it was up to the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ms Higgins alleges Mr Lehrmann raped her inside a ministerial office in Parliament House following a night out drinking with colleagues. He denies any sexual interaction happened.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Shane Drumgold urged the jury to disregard discussions of political movements and workplace cultures sparked by the case.

He said the case was not about the culture inside Parliament House or the Me Too movement but about what happened on a couch inside a minister’s office in the early hours of Saturday, March 23, 2019.

Mr Drumgold 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 why he was at parliament on the night of the alleged assault to the security guards, to his boss and to the police.

The prosecutor suggested Mr Lehrmann’s intent was to go to Parliament House so he could be alone with the “drunk” and “vulnerable” Ms Higgins.

Mr Lehrmann’s defence lawyer Steven Whybrow told the court nothing happened that night and suggested Ms Higgins had fabricated her account to save her job.

He said a closer look at her evidence made the prosecution’s case against his client “totally untenable”.

Mr Whybrow pointed to inconsistencies in Ms Higgins’ story, including that she had told police and others she had attended doctor appointments after the alleged assault.

He suggested Ms Higgins fabricated doctor appointments at the time to “make it more believable” that she had been sexually assaulted.

The jury must continue deliberations until it reaches a unanimous verdict.

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-AAP

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