Lead detective reveals he is a sexual assault survivor

·3-min read
Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

The senior police officer who investigated rape allegations made by Brittany Higgins has revealed he is a sexual assault survivor.

Australian Federal Police Detective Superintendent Scott Moller disclosed his personal experience while giving evidence at an independent inquiry into how the justice system handled Ms Higgins' case.

"I'm a survivor - 45 years ago I was a victim of sexual assault and I've lived with that," Supt Moller said.

"That has driven my desire to work in the police and to work with victims in community-based policing specifically."

Supt Moller, who had been grilled on his response to Ms Higgins, said he was offended by suggestions the investigation had been affected by rape myths.

"I've lived with that and it's difficult to have that experience," he said.

"As dedicated as I am and other police are in ACT Policing, it is disappointing to hear that there is an inference that we're not working as hard as we can to solve those matters, to move forward with those matters and to have them prosecuted."

Supt Moller said this would be his ongoing commitment until he retired.

He was the lead officer who investigated Ms Higgins' allegation her former colleague Bruce Lehrmann raped her in 2019, inside the Parliament House office of then coalition minister Linda Reynolds after a night out.

Mr Lehrmann denies the allegation.

Earlier, the senior officer walked back his criticisms of the ACT's Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates who supported Ms Higgins.

In his inquiry submission, Supt Moller claimed Ms Yates' involvement in the matter was inappropriate and he felt she was trying to place a barrier between investigators and Ms Higgins.

But during cross-examination by the commissioner's lawyer Peggy Dwyer, Supt Moller conceded Ms Yates in fact helped facilitate police communication.

He admitted he did not have a good understanding of the commissioner's role before he wrote his statement to the inquiry and had not read the Victims of Crimes Commission Act.

When Ms Yates' lawyer pointed to examples of the commissioner's assistance, including organising for Ms Higgins to provide additional evidence, he acknowledged her involvement was beneficial.

"I absolutely see that it's within her role for Ms Yates to be involved in matters like this as a support person if she chooses to," he said.

Supt Moller told the inquiry he was concerned about police inexperience within the territory's sexual assault and child abuse team (SACAT) which put pressure on senior officers.

He said SACAT was a training ground for budding detectives to learn their strategies and officers in the division were very young and inexperienced.

While the organisation was proud the division provided training for young police officers, it also presented challenges.

Very few SACAT officers had completed an AFP sexual assault training program and Supt Moller admitted he had not done it.

"The training (officers) are given at the moment is learned on the job," he said.

Supt Moller acknowledged there was "absolutely" room for improvement when it came to police training on sexual assault responses.  

But he denied an accusation he showed bias in favour of Mr Lehrmann.

Mark Tedeschi KC, representing ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold, pointed to a comment Supt Moller liked on a LinkedIn post in December 2022.

It followed the prosecutor's decision to drop the charge against Mr Lehrmann due to fears about the impact of a second trial on Ms Higgins' mental health.

Supt Moller liked a comment that said: "Mr Lehrmann is innocent until proven otherwise."

The comment went on to say the former Liberal staffer did not deserve to be "negatively labelled for the rest of his life" and the author was "deeply shocked" by some of Mr Drumgold's reported comments on the case.

Mr Tedeschi suggested liking this comment showed Supt Moller had a bias in favour of Mr Lehrmann but the senior detective disagreed.

He accepted, in hindsight, he shouldn't have liked the comment.

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