Lehrmann prosecutor grilled on advice to Lisa Wilkinson

·3-min read
Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

The ACT's chief prosecutor and Network 10 journalist Lisa Wilkinson are at odds about whether she was sufficiently warned against giving a Logies speech which delayed Bruce Lehrmann's rape trial.

Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold gave a fifth day of evidence at an inquiry into how the justice system handled Brittany Higgins's rape allegations against Mr Lehrmann.

Mr Drumgold endured a lengthy cross-examination by high-profile barrister Sue Chrysanthou, acting for Ms Wilkinson.

The prosecutor was questioned about a pre-trial meeting with Ms Wilkinson, where she told him she was nominated for the Logies award based on her 2021 interview with Ms Higgins about her alleged rape.

Mr Drumgold believed he had warned Ms Wilkinson, who attended the meeting alongside Network 10 lawyer Tanya Smithies, that any publicity of the case could delay the trial due to commence shortly after the awards.

But in a statement to the inquiry, Ms Wilkinson said Mr Drumgold did not warn her against giving the speech or tell her that publicity posed a risk to the trial.

"To my mind, someone being told any publicity could give rise to a stay - particularly an experienced journalist sitting next to a media lawyer - would not arrive at any other possible conclusion than you shouldn't make the speech," Mr Drumgold said on Friday. 

"I am not the only source of information that Ms Wilkinson had. I knew that at the time. I am simply a prosecutor prosecuting a matter. 

"I have done nothing but, from start of this matter, tell people not to talk about the matter."

Ms Wilkinson won the award and gave her speech which generated intense media reporting about the case, resulting in ACT Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucy McCallum postponing proceedings to protect Mr Lehrmann's right to a fair trial.

She also experienced severe media criticism following the trial's delay, which included inaccurate reports about the chief justice's judgment.

Ms Chrysanthou asked Mr Drumgold why he did not take the opportunity to correct the record about Ms Wilkinson in open court.

"There was nothing but misreporting of this (case) and people associated with it ... every media outlet is misrepresenting this entire trial and all of the allegations, so at what point do I stop correcting the public record?" he replied.

Mr Drumgold said he did not think he was in a position to fix the reporting about Ms Wilkinson, but he conceded in hindsight he should have corrected the matter in court.

"I simply couldn't change the flow of the media, I couldn't make the media change their reporting," he said.

Mr Drumgold was also grilled about why he did not raise his suspicions of a political conspiracy to derail Mr Lehrmann's rape trial with police, before he brought up the possibility at the inquiry. 

He previously said he was concerned by "strange events" during the investigation and trial that had led him to believe there was a possible political conspiracy in the case.

But he later clarified these comments, saying it was not a belief he still held having read police submissions to the inquiry.

He said his current view was that police officers involved in the investigation had a "skills deficit" rather than being involved in a conspiracy.

Mr Drumgold said he was not making an allegation of a political conspiracy to the inquiry, but rather raising it as a possibility he had considered during the investigation and trial. 

Australian Federal Police lawyer Kate Richardson said Mr Drumgold's comments had been widely reported in the media and he had given no indication he no longer believed it was a possibility.

"It was not even within my purview in saying those things that it would be articulated or it would be received as a belief I still have," Mr Drumgold said.

Officers from ACT Policing and the AFP are expected to give evidence to the inquiry, as well as Mr Lehrmann's defence lawyer Steven Whybrow and Ms Wilkinson.