Australia

Linda Reynolds denies trying to ‘coach’ cross-examination of Brittany Higgins

This story contains allegations of sexual assault and may be distressing to some readers.
Former minister Linda Reynolds has denied trying to interfere in the criminal trial of a man accused of raping her former staffer Brittany Higgins.
Ms Higgins alleges she was raped by former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann inside Senator Reynolds’ ministerial office weeks before the 2019 federal election was called.

Mr Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty in the ACT Supreme Court to sexual intercourse without consent.

While giving evidence in the trial on Monday, it was revealed that Senator Reynolds sought access to the transcripts of Ms Higgins’ evidence because she was curious about what had been said.
However, she was told this request was “inappropriate” and she did not receive the transcripts.
Prosecutor Shane Drumgold asked the senator why she had messaged Lehrmann’s defence team about a potential line of questioning two hours after Ms Higgins began her evidence.

Mr Drumgold accused her of trying to coach the cross-examination of Ms Higgins because she was politically invested in the outcome of the case, two suggestions which she denied.

It was also revealed Senator Reynolds’ partner has been sitting in court throughout the proceedings, but she denied he had relayed any details of the case to her.
Senator Reynolds said she knew few details about Ms Higgins’ alleged rape in 2019 and did not consider the former staffer a liability to the Liberal Party.
The court previously heard Ms Higgins did not pursue a police complaint because during a meeting with Senator Reynolds the week after the alleged assault, the conversation turned to the impact it could have on the Liberal Party.
When Mr Drumgold put to Senator Reynolds that her dominant concern in that meeting was the impending election, she strenuously denied it.

“I categorically and utterly reject that assertion,” she said.

Senator Reynolds told the court she knew few details about the night of the alleged assault, other than there had been a security breach of her ministerial suite.
She said Ms Higgins was apologetic and embarrassed about the breach.
When Ms Higgins became upset while disclosing details about waking up the following morning and getting dressed, Senator Reynolds said she recommended talking to the police.

She told the court she suggested Ms Higgins talk to someone more qualified.

Earlier, Liberal senator Michaelia Cash denied the former government covered up Ms Higgins’ alleged rape, agreeing it would be political suicide to do so.
Senator Cash also said she did not know about the rape accusation until 2021.
The court has previously heard Ms Higgins, who was employed by Senator Cash between 2019 and 2021, talked to her about the alleged assault several times.
But appearing via video link on Monday, Senator Cash said although she was told there had been a security breach in a ministerial office, she was not told about the alleged sexual assault.
She said Ms Higgins disclosed she and Lehrmann had entered Senator Reynolds’ office after a night out drinking and she had fallen asleep there.
Senator Cash said she did not recall talking to Senator Reynolds about the breach.
Asked by Mr Drumgold if an alleged assault between ministerial staffers would be “politically embarrassing”, Senator Cash said “absolutely not”.
She said she did not understand the political connection, but an assault allegation would need to be addressed.
When Mr Whybrow suggested it would be “political suicide” for a government to try and cover up a sexual assault allegation, Senator Cash agreed.
Senator Cash said when she learned about the alleged assault in 2021 she told Ms Higgins she would be supported “every step of the way”.
If allegations set out in this story raise issues for you, or you or someone you know needs support – you can seek 24 hour help through 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.
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