The ACT Chief Justice has warned that the more the public talks about Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape, the more likely the prosecution will be dropped.
Bruce Lehrmann, accused of raping former Liberal employee Brittany Higgins in a federal minister’s office, has pleaded not guilty.
Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said those with a stake in the case risk being held in contempt of court by prejudicing a trial before the jury hears the case in June.
“The court urges anyone interested in these proceedings to keep these issues in mind and to be careful about what they say between now and June 6,” she told the Supreme Court on Thursday. ACT.
“To put it bluntly, the longer people keep talking about this case, the greater the risk that the charges will be stayed.”
Chief Justice McCallum noted that the offense could only be tried by a jury.
Appearing on Lehrmann’s behalf, attorney John Korn expressed concern that speeches made during a campaign in which Higgins is involved had the potential to damage the case.
But the attorney admitted he was unsure whether a stay motion would be sought, telling the court he was to represent Lehrmann at trial but that another legal team would handle pre-trial matters.
Mr Korn said the chances of a stay of proceedings “getting started” were slim, adding “I think the chances of a stay request being made are slim to none”.
Chief Justice McCallum chastised legal counsel for the alleged Higgins rapist for not knowing whether a stay request would be made by the defendant.
“It’s not a very satisfying situation not to have a definitive answer less than three months (…) from the moment the court set aside six weeks (for the trial).
“We need to know and we need to know urgently if there will be a request for a suspension.”
Legal concerns that Lehrmann could not receive a fair trial due to the publicity surrounding the case were raised at a previous hearing in February.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued an apology to Higgins and other victims of sexual harassment in Parliament on February 8, but the Prime Minister’s Office later clarified that the comments were not a reflection of the cases in court.