Bruce Lehrmann 'convicted in the media', inquiry hears

·3-min read

Bruce Lehrmann was convicted in the media before his rape trial even started, his defence lawyer has told an independent inquiry.

But Steven Whybrow also believes a senior police officer who threatened to quit if Mr Lehrmann was found guilty was experiencing a "moral trauma".

Mr Whybrow was the second witness to give evidence to an inquiry into how the justice system handled rape allegations made by Mr Lehrmann's former colleague Brittany Higgins.

He told the inquiry he believed language used during sexual assault cases, where people were referred to in front of a jury as "the victim" rather than "the complainant", was problematic.

"Words count and that carries with it an implied suggestion that what is being alleged is true," he said on Wednesday.

Mr Lehrmann pleaded not guilty in an ACT Supreme Court trial which was derailed due to juror misconduct.

Prosecutors later dropped the charges against him because of fears about the impact a second trial would have on Ms Higgins' mental health.

Mr Whybrow said his client was "convicted in the media" before the trial started and lamented Ms Higgins being accompanied to court by the ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates.

"I don't have a problem or a concern with that statutory office holder providing that sort of support, but it only served in this case ... to make a very difficult situation for Mr Lehrmann," Mr Whybrow said. 

"Press Club statements ... the Logies (and) to then be walked into court every day by somebody whose job is to support victims only served to, in my perspective, elevate (Ms Higgins') position from a complainant in this criminal justice sphere to one who is actually a victim of crime." 

Mr Whybrow earlier told the inquiry he was "pissed off" by suggestions during the high-profile trial that his cross-examination had been coached by former coalition minister Linda Reynolds. 

The allegation was made by Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold during the trial and in a letter to Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan after it was vacated.

In the letter, Mr Drumgold alleged Senator Reynolds had "engaged in direct coaching of the defence cross-examination of the complainant".

But Mr Whybrow told the inquiry this was an "appalling mischaracterisation" of what had happened.

"I don't hold a candle for Senator Reynolds but (the suggestions) were unfair and, as far as I was aware, untrue," he said.

Mr Whybrow told Mr Drumgold he had been contacted by the senator asking for transcripts from trial proceedings to be sent to her lawyers, but he said she couldn't access them.

Mr Drumgold confronted Senator Reynolds about this in court and also questioned why her husband had been sitting in court for the proceedings.

"He put these positive things to Linda Reynolds, including that she was trying to tell me how to do my job and give me cross-examination tips," Mr Whybrow said. 

"I was pissed off, I was angry and I wrote ... to (Mr Drumgold) about what I considered was improper conduct."

Mr Whybrow also believed the statement made by Mr Drumgold when he dropped the charges conveyed a suggestion about Mr Lehrmann's guilt.

"The DPP is not the solicitor for the complainant. He is supposed to be the objective minister of justice," he said.

Mr Whybrow told the inquiry while he did not get the impression police wanted a not guilty verdict during the trial, a senior officer involved in the investigation experienced a "moral trauma" while the jury was deliberating.

"In relation to Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman, he was somewhat stressed (and) my impression was a sort of moral trauma," Mr Whybrow said.

"He expressed the view that he thought (Lehrmann) was innocent."