Prosecutor advises Higgins to consider steering clear of PM’s office inquiry

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has been advised to consider not participating in an investigation into who in the Prime Minister’s office knew of her allegation of being raped by a colleague in case it prejudices the trial.

ACT Director Of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold told Ms Higgins the inquiry by the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, and publicity around its eventual report could interfere with the legal proceedings.

Brittany Higgins’ allegation sparked three separate government reviews and a spate of further claims about bad behaviour and sexual harassment in Parliament House.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Earlier this month, police charged 26-year-old Bruce Lehrmann with one count of sexual intercourse without consent. He denies the allegation and is due to face the ACT Magistrates Court on September 16.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked Mr Gaetjens to look into what information his staff had and when they knew about Ms Higgins’ allegation, made public in February, that she had been raped in the office of senator Linda Reynolds in March 2019.

The claim sparked three separate government reviews and a spate of further allegations about bad behaviour and sexual harassment in Parliament House.

Mr Gaetjens’ inquiry was put on hold in March after police advised him it might interfere with their investigation. Mr Gaetjens told Senate estimates he resumed the work on May 11 after getting the all-clear from police and expected to be finished within weeks.

However, in written advice to Ms Higgins seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Mr Drumgold said his view was that “any concerns that Mr Gaetjens held that his investigation could interfere with a police investigation should obviously remain equally valid for legal proceedings”.

He also said given the media interest in the matter, he assumed Mr Gaetjens’ investigation and report would be published and could be “highly prejudicial to the proceedings”.

“I would request that Miss Higgins carefully consider not participating in any interview that could ultimately result in publicity that is prejudicial to legal proceedings whilst the matter is Sub Curia,” Mr Drumgold wrote.

Ms Higgins sought advice from the prosecutor after being asked to be interviewed for Mr Gaetjens’ investigation.

Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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