‘Ongoing trauma’: Charges against Higgins accused dropped

Charge dropped against man accused of Brittany Higgins' rape

Prosecutors have abandoned plans to pursue the sexual assault charge against the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins.

On Friday, ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold made a brief statement confirming reports that the charge against Bruce Lehrmann will be dropped, amid fears going ahead might be a danger to Ms Higgins.

“I have recently received compelling evidence from two independent medical experts that the ongoing trauma associated with this prosecution presents a significant and unacceptable risk to the life of the complainant,” he said.

“I have made the difficult decision that it is no longer in the public interest to pursue a prosecution at the risk of the complainant’s life.”

Mr Drumgold said the advice had left him with no option but to file a notice declining to go ahead with the planned retrial. He did that on Friday morning.

“This brings the prosecution to an end,” he said.

Mr Lehrmann was charged with sexual intercourse without consent and was on bail awaiting a new trial in the ACT Supreme Court after juror misconduct derailed the first.

Ms Higgins alleged Mr Lehrmann raped her inside the office of former Liberal defence industry minister Linda Reynolds, who they worked for as staffers.

Mr Lehrmann pleaded not guilty and maintains no sexual interaction occurred.

Mr Drumgold ended his short statement with a tribute to Ms Higgins.

“During the investigation and trial as a sexual assault complainant, Ms Higgins has faced a level of personal attack that I have not seen in over 20 years of doing this work,”  he said.

“She has done so with bravery, grace and dignity and it is my hope that this will now stop and Ms Higgins will be allowed to heal.”

A spokeswoman for Ms Higgins confirmed she was in hospital receiving treatment and support.

Emma Webster, a close friend of Ms Higgins, said the past few years had been “difficult and unrelenting”.

“While it’s disappointing the trial has ended this way, Brittany’s health and safety must always come first,” Ms Webster said.

The Global Institute of Women’s Leadership, of which Ms Higgins is a member, said the case underscored the toll of sexual assault prosecutions on complainants and called for reform.

“There is a clear need for ongoing law reform and practical changes in both the criminal justice system and the laws, processes and institutions that prohibit workplace harassment and ensure safe, respectful workplaces,” their statement said.

“The personal price she has paid has been astronomical. We cannot continue to expect individuals to pay such a price in the pursuit of justice, let alone systemic change.”

Mr Drumgold said he still held the view that there was a reasonable prosecution of conviction on the charge, but the prosecution would not be pursued.

He had had previously indicated he would proceed with a retrial in February.

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-with AAP

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