A lawyer for Network 10 has rejected claims she had a muted conversation with Lisa Wilkinson about her Logies speech during a meeting with the ACT’s top prosecutor.
Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC has claimed after he stopped Wilkinson from reading out her pre-prepared Logies speech, and warned her about the risk of publicity, the pair had a private conversation.
Mr Drumgold said he was of the understanding her lawyer would also advise her about the risks involved with making such a speech.
He told the inquiry he was “100 per confident that when the microphone went on mute that her lawyer was giving her advice”.
On Friday, Network Ten lawyer Tasha Smithies said she “did not accept” his recollection of events.
The inquiry has previously heard the high-profile journalist suffered “utter destruction” by the media for a Logies speech that caused the trial to be delayed
Mr Drumgold has claimed he in effect warned Wilkinson against making the speech by telling her any further publicity could delay the trial – which ultimately occurred.
But he has conceded he should have been more explicit.
In a written statement to the inquiry, Wilkinson insisted she had not been warned.
“If Mr Drumgold had told me not to give the speech, I would have followed that advice,’’ Wilkinson wrote.
POLICE HAD A ‘WEAK CASE’
A high ranking police officer says his personal view was the case against Bruce Lehrmann was “weak”.
Australian Federal Police commander Michael Chew told the inquiry he initially thought there may be “insufficient evidence” to proceed with a prosecution.
But his mind had changed after reading an evidence brief compiled by Detective Superintendent Scott Moller and after advice from Mr Drumgold.
“It was a matter that should quite rightly be tested in court,” Mr Chew told the inquiry on Friday.
Counsel assisting Erin Longbottom also pressed the commander about a diary note made by Superintendent Moller which claimed Mr Chew had made reference to “political interference” in the case.
Mr Chew accepted he made the comments but said he was referring to the intense media scrutiny, the location of the alleged assault and the fact government ministers – including the Prime Minister – had made comments on the high profile case.
“It was quite a unique case,” he said.
THREAT TO RESIGN DOES NOT MEAN POLICE LOST OBJECTIVITY
Mr Chew was also asked to reflect on whether a comment made by one of the lead investigators to Mr Lehrmann’s defence barrister was of concern.
Evidence tendered to the inquiry revealed that Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman had disclosed he would resign if the jury delivered a guilty verdict.
Mark Tedeschi KC, acting for Mr Drumgold, asked the commander if he agreed it was an “unusual” remark to be made by an officer with an inspector rank.
“It would be unusual for anyone to make those sort of comments,” Mr Chew said.
“It shows a lack of objectivity, would you say?” Mr Tedeschi responded.
“I wouldn’t say that, no.”
COP FEARED ‘CONSPIRATORIAL IDEAS’
A senior police officer says she advised investigators to avoid speaking with Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers during his trial over concerns it would fuel rumours they were conspiring with defence.
Australian Federal Police acting assistant commissioner Joanne Cameron, who oversaw the team that investigated Ms Higgins’ rape allegation, told an inquiry the case attracted “conspiratorial ideas”.
Ms Cameron said she recalled Superintendent Moller being “quite agitated” after receiving a mid-trial phone call from Mr Whybrow.
She could not recall why, or the reason for the defence counsel’s phone call.
On Thursday, the inquiry was shown a furious email she fired off to Mr Drumgold and subordinates after she was informed of the phone call.
“I recall conversations with the director (Mr Drumgold) that led me to believe he had a suspicion that actions being taken by police (were) for nefarious or intended to somehow affect the prosecution,: Ms Cameron said on Friday.
“I do recall conversations with the director (that) suggested there was an issue with the professionalism and impartiality of some of my police and that included Superintendent Moller.”
Mr Drumgold has previously told the inquiry he was concerned “police were actively seeking to undermine the successful prosecution of the case”.
While it is legal for police to speak with the defence she was concerned it would only add to erroneous rumours of improper behaviour.
Mr Whybrow has denied the interactions he had with police were inappropriate.
CONFUSION OVER TEST MUST BE FIXED
The high-ranking police officer gave evidence she became aware of a misunderstanding of the threshold to charge a subject when she was made commander of ACT Policing.
The inquiry heard ACT Policing was developing a “more robust framework” to give officers a better understanding about the decision to charge.
Chair Walter Sofronoff said it was clear that “something has to be done to create consistency”.
In her written submission to the inquiry, Ms Cameron pointed the finger at Mr Drumgold for confusing police about the legal test to charge.
“Some police were being … confused by the strongly promoted view of the ACT DPP and ODPP that the threshold to charge should focus solely on the word ‘suspected’,” she said in her written submission to the inquiry.
She said it was beyond the office of the DPP’s “remit of responsibility” to express views to police officers about charging.
“In my opinion it created confusion and placed unnecessary pressure on those police officers … it also blurred the lines between the distinct roles of the investigator and prosecutor.”
Senior Constable Emma Frizzell, a member of the team that investigated Ms Higgins’ allegation, told the inquiry on Thursday police still had a misunderstanding about the legal test to this day.
She said she only learned she was not applying the correct threshold through the course of the inquiry.
Mr Drumgold has previously told the inquiry officers were confused about the test to charge people with sexual assault.
He has also accused officers within ACT Policing of having a “skills deficit”, undercharging sexual assault matters and holding outdated views.
Mr Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexually assaulting his former colleague at Parliament House in 2019, before the trial was aborted due to jury misconduct.
Mr Lehrmann has continually denied the allegation and the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to pursue a second trial due to concerns over Ms Higgins’ mental health and dropped the charge.
The inquiry continues.