Photography: Lukas Coch/AAP
The Australian Capital Territory’s top lawmaker has backed prosecutor Shane Drumgold amid ongoing public attacks following Bruce Lehrmann’s trial.
ACT Attorney General Shane Rattenbury said he maintained his confidence in Drumgold SC, the ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions.
The end of the charges against Lehrmann exposed a disagreement between police and prosecutors over the handling of the case and prompted a local law firm, Aulich Law, to publicly call on Drumgold to resign.
The partner of this firm, Ben Aulich, is currently being prosecuted for alleged conspiracy to launder money. Aulich denies the allegation and alleged that he was entrapped.
The critics seem to have done little to change the government’s support for Drumgold.
When asked if he had maintained his faith in Drumgold after the public criticism, Rattenbury answered in one word: “Yes”.
Drumgold raised his own concerns about the misconduct after the case.
Related: ‘Very concerned’: Prosecutor warns of potentially ‘unlawful’ Brittany Higgins disclosures
On Saturday, leaked police documents suggesting detectives doubted Brittany Higgins’ credibility and fears over her mental health were published in the Australian newspaper.
In a statement to the Guardian on Saturday, Drumgold said he was “very concerned” about the potentially illegal sharing of police documents on Higgins, including private text messages with his partner, David Sharaz.
“I am very concerned that material potentially protected by law may again have been illegally distributed,” he told the Guardian. “Given that I and others have previously raised concerns about matters that are currently under investigation, it would not be appropriate to comment further while investigations are ongoing.”
Drumgold’s announcement that he would not pursue a new trial on Friday also sparked a series of new legal threats and civil lawsuits.
The Guardian revealed on Tuesday that Lehrmann was in talks with defamation scholars and was considering suing the ABC, among other outlets, for live-streaming Higgins’ statement outside of court in October. Lehrmann is also reportedly considering pursuing Channel 10’s The Project and The Australian.
Lehrmann had maintained his innocence over allegations that he raped Higgins, a colleague and fellow political staffer, in the office of then Defense Industry Minister Linda Reynolds in March 2019. He said pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent, denying that any sexual activity had taken place.
On Wednesday, News Corp reported that Lehrmann had hired Mark O’Brien, a top libel lawyer, to act on his behalf. O’Brien previously worked for Ben Roberts-Smith in his defamation case against Fairfax. Lehrmann supporters have since confirmed that O’Brien was engaged.
No Notice of Concern has yet been sent and no decision has been made on who Lehrmann can sue.
Meanwhile, police have yet to resolve a complaint Higgins made about his conduct by sending sensitive evidence — including his counseling notes — to Lehrmann’s defense team ahead of trial. Police said Tuesday they were still reviewing the complaint and would not comment further.
Drumgold had also complained about the distribution of the material.
“This issue is quite serious, counsel notes and other sensitive information of a rape complainant were unlawfully given to an alleged rapist’s attorney,” Drumgold said on Oct. 11, 2021. “I would suggest that it should attract more urgency than it seems to receive.”
Meanwhile, Higgins continues to bring her own civil lawsuits against two former cabinet ministers, Michaelia Cash and Linda Reynolds. Guardian Australia understands that Cash is willing to settle any claims that are made.