Bruce Lehrmann Retrial Dropped After Concerns For Brittany Higgins’ Mental Health

"Why can’t the legal system find a way for victims to seek justice without publicly traumatising them?"

brittany higgins

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A retrial of political staffer Bruce Lehrmann over the alleged rape of former colleague Brittany Higgins has officially been dropped by ACT prosecutors today.

ACT prosecutor Shane Drumgold told reporters in Canberra this morning that the planned retrial of Bruce Lehrmann would be scrapped due to new medical evidence, citing the “significant and unacceptable” trauma the case would pose to Higgins’ mental health.

“I’ve recently received compelling evidence from two independent medical experts that the ongoing trauma associated with this prosecution represents a significant and unacceptable risk to the life of the complainant,” Drumgold told reporters.

“The evidence makes it clear that this is not limited to the harm of giving evidence in the witness box.”

“While the pursuit of justice is essential for my office and for the community in general, the safety of a complainant in a sexual assault matter must be paramount.”

The initial trial against Lehman collapsed in late October, after one juror brought home-researched evidence on sexual assault into a deliberation with the jury, forcing the judge to dismiss the entire trial.

Drumgold praised Higgins’ character during the painfully protracted legal proceedings, which were due to continue in February.

“Ms Higgins has faced a level of personal attack that I have not seen in over 20 years of doing this work. She has done so with bravery, grace and dignity and it is my hope that this will now stop and Ms Higgins will be allowed to heal.”

Sexual assault advocates have cited the case as an example of the Australian legal system’s inability to defend victims of alleged sexual assault without subsequently traumatising them over the course of proceedings.

A close friend of Higgins, Emma Webster, released a statement on her behalf this morning, sharing that she is currently receiving treatment in a Queensland mental health facility.

“Brittany is in hospital getting the treatment and support she needs,’’ Ms Webster said.

“The last couple of years have been difficult and unrelenting.”

“While it’s disappointing the trial has ended this way, Brittany’s health and safety must always come first.”

“Brittany is extremely grateful for all the support she has received, particularly from our mental health care workers.”

More to come.

Image Credit: Martin Ollman / Getty Images