Brittany Higgins breaks her silence after Bruce Lehrman’s charges were dropped

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has spoken out about the impact the justice system has on people making allegations of sexual assault.

Charges against a man accused of raping Higgins at Parliament House in 2019 were dropped last week over concerns for her mental wellbeing.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: ACT’s Chief Prosecutor, Shane Drumgold SC, announces that the sexual assault charges against Bruce Lehrmann have been dropped

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The first trial was abandoned due to jury misconduct.

Bruce Lehrmann has always maintained his innocence and denied there was any sexual contact between the two.

In her first public comments since the charges were dropped, Higgins said she never understood how asymmetric the criminal justice system was until she spoke up.

In a statement posted to Instagram, Brittany Higgins highlighted the impact the criminal justice system is having on people who make sexual assault complaints. Recognition: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIPICTURE

She said she felt like the person on trial after her personal life, messages and dates were publicly exposed and scrutinized.

Higgins testified and was questioned at the trial, while Lehrmann did not comment.

“This is the reality of how complainants are treated in sexual assault cases,” she wrote in an Instagram post Sunday morning.

“Their lives are being torn apart, their families and friends are being called to the witness stand and the defendant has the legal right to say absolutely nothing.”

She said of her own ordeal: “My life has been under public scrutiny, open to the world.

“I had to give up my phones, my passwords, messages, photos and my data.”

Higgins said the criminal justice system had failed to produce results for victims of sexual assault, noting that in the ACT in 2020, only 16 percent of sex offenses reported to police resulted in charges.

Only half of these resulted in a conviction.

“This is to our national shame,” she said.

“I want to thank the other women who have reached out and shared their own experiences.

“I believe you. You were with me every day as I walked in and faced that courtroom.”

The ACT government is considering legislative reforms that would make it easier for alleged sexual assault victims to testify during a retrial by allowing recorded evidence from a first trial to be used in a second.

The Women’s Legal Center in Canberra welcomed the proposed reform, saying it would provide more choice in a process that offers limited options.

Lead Counsel Claudia Maclean says the reforms would help reduce trauma risks and stop the need for complainants to “start over” during a retrial.

“This is a step closer to making our criminal justice processes more trauma-informed,” she wrote in a submission to the reforms.

Maclean says complainants should also have access to legal advice when it comes to making a choice to use recorded evidence, as there is currently no legal service to inform them of the processes involved.

“While support services exist for victims and survivors, they are unable to provide legal and strategic advice on optimizing engagement in the criminal justice system,” she said.

“This is a known gap in this space.”

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT at 1800.737.732 or visit us an emergency, call 000.

If you need help during a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information about depression, call beyondblue on 1300224636 or speak to your GP, local healthcare professional or someone you trust.

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Roar footage: The moment five wild lions escape from their enclosure at Taronga Zoo–c-9054604 Brittany Higgins breaks her silence after Bruce Lehrman’s charges were dropped

James Brien

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