Pictured: ABC chief political correspondent, Laura Tingle
Text messages show Brittany Higgins leaked a complaint about the Federal police to the ABC’s chief political correspondent two months before the trial against her alleged rapist Bruce Lehrmann was set to begin, and the top prosecutor appeared to know all about it.
The extraordinary exchange between Ms Higgins and Laura Tingle, obtained exclusively by Daily Mail Australia, took place on WhatsApp in the lead-up to an article published on the national broadcaster’s website on April 27, 2022.
The messages detailed a formal complaint against the Australian Federal Police (AFP) over the unlawful release of Ms Higgins’ private mental health records and psychology notes to Mr Lehrmann’s defence team.
Ms Higgins alleged her former colleague Mr Lehrmann raped her inside Parliament House after a night out in March 2019. His original trial in the ACT Supreme Court was scheduled for June last year, but was later moved to October, before the case was discontinued.
Mr Lehrmann had pleaded not guilty and continues to maintain his innocence.
In the texts, Ms Higgins said the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shane Drumgold had brought her attention to the fact that the AFP ‘unlawfully disclosed protected material to the defence counsel given as evidence’.
Brittany Higgins is pictured centre, in black, with her partner David Sharaz outside the ACT Supreme Court in October
Brittany Higgins messaged Laura Tingle in March, letting her know about the complaint (mock-up of the texts, pictured)
Ms Higgins wrote: ‘Hi Laura, hope you are well. Completely off the record but I wanted to reach out about a formal complaint I’ll likely be making against the AFP in the coming weeks.’
She then alluded to another conversation Ms Tingle had with David Sharaz, Ms Higgins’ boyfriend: ‘Please excuse me if David has briefed you already – Shane Drumgold the DPP brought a whole new palaver to (our) attention.’
The ‘palaver’ Ms Higgins referred to was police handing two years’ worth of confidential counselling notes to Mr Lehrmann’s lawyers, along with video recordings of her initial interview with police, known as her evidence in chief interviews.
Ms Tingle was quick to send a compassionate and expletive-laden response.
‘Oh Britt. I’m so sorry. You need this like a hole in the head. How sh*t. How f***ing outrageous. Thanks for filling me in. David hadn’t mentioned it,’ she wrote.
‘I will, of course, keep it firmly in the vault. Just sing out, of course, if and when you want to provide the full lot. Lots of hugs and boxing gloves in the meantime.’
The pair then engage in a personal conversation about Ms Tingle’s cat and the impending Federal Budget, which the political journalist said she was not looking forward to covering due to ‘grubbiness over Kimberley Kitching’.
Laura Tingle replied: ‘Oh Britt. I’m so sorry. You need this like a hole in the head. How sh*t’
The ‘grubbiness’ referred to allegations that had only recently emerged at the time claiming Senator Kitching was bullied by her Labor colleagues in the months before she had a fatal heart attack on March 10 last year.
Ms Tingle told Ms Higgins the whole situation made her feel ‘quite ill’.
Weeks later, on April 20, Ms Higgins sent another text to Ms Tingle to say she planned to lodge her complaint against AFP later that day.
She then sent screenshots of five pages worth of notes, which were compiled by Mr Drumgold ‘in relation to the police misconduct’, Ms Higgins explained in a lengthy message.
Ms Tingle responded the following day: ‘Hi darls, apologies for not getting back to you yesterday but crazy day … hoping to look at this tomorrow. Does Tuesday publication work?’
The next correspondence was on April 25 when Ms Tingle apologised again for being slow to report on the complaint.
She also asked Ms Higgins a series of questions about the status of the complaint, and whether she could use quotes from Mr Drumgold’s notes, adding: ‘P.S. this whole thing is SO outrageous…but I guess I don’t have to tell you that!’
Ms Higgins replied to the final part: ‘It’s shockingly bad form. The whole process between the police and dealing with the govt behind the scenes has been a nightmare.’
To the overall message, Ms Higgins replied: ‘No problems! Hope you are on the mend,’ and confirmed Mr Drumgold gave her the written account to ‘help with the complaint’.
In the exchange, Ms Higgins said she would ‘reconfirm’ with Mr Drumgold to ‘make sure he’s comfortable’
She also instructed Ms Tingle to attribute any quotes used in the story from Mr Drumgold’s summary to ’emails seen by the ABC’, rather than via screenshots sent directly to her.
In the same message, Ms Higgins said she would ‘reconfirm’ with Mr Drumgold the following morning to ‘make sure he’s comfortable’.
On April 26, Ms Tingle said: ‘Hi Britt, just to let you know I’m keen to keep pushing on this. I have written a draft pending clarification from the DPP about using that information that has been provided to you (and the best way of attributing it).’
Ms Tingle said it was ‘probably a good idea’ if Ms Higgins spoke to Mr Drumgold again, adding that she would also have to approach his office for an official comment prior to publication.
Ms Higgins re-affirmed she would speak with Mr Drumgold: ‘Yes, I’ve emailed Shane and will endeavour to speak with him shortly.’
Ms Tingle said: ‘Excellent! Here’s hoping we can jump all the hurdles and get it away today.’
The final article was published on the ABC’s website on April 27.
Shane Drumgold, the ACT DPP, is pictured outside the ACT Supreme Court in October, during the criminal trial against Bruce Lehrmann
A line at the end of the article showed Mr Drumgold declined to comment when contacted by Ms Tingle: ‘A spokesperson for the DPP said he declined to comment on the matter, as it was currently before the court.’
ACT Policing also declined to comment at the time, however, the issue was heavily discussed earlier this month at a Board of Inquiry into the way police and prosecutors handed Mr Lehrmann’s trial.
Mr Lehrmann’s trial went ahead in October, but was derailed by a juror who brought banned research material into the jury room. On December 2, Mr Drumgold announced there would not be a retrial due to concerns over Ms Higgins’s mental health.
During the inquiry earlier in May, police conceded that Ms Higgins private information was given to the defence by accident.
Mr Drumgold told the inquiry he previously believed the act was malicious, but changed his mind and said it was likely due to police ineptitude.
The judge overseeing the inquiry, Walter Sofronoff, will report his findings to the ACT’s Chief Minister Andrew Barr in June.
Daily Mail Australia approached Ms Tingle, the ABC, Mr Drumgold, and Ms Higgins for comment.
Full ‘off the record’ text exchange between Laura Tingle and Brittany Higgins
Brittany Higgins: ‘Hi Laura, hope you are well. Completely off the record but I wanted to reach out about a formal complaint I’ll likely be making against the AFP in the coming weeks.
‘Please excuse me if David has briefed you already – Shane Drumgold the DPP brought a whole new palaver to out attention.
‘The AFP went against protocol serving the full brief of evidence to the defence (in the ACT this is usually conducted by the AFP). In addition to this, the brief included all my mental health records, session notes from the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre and full videos of my EIC interviews.
‘The DPP has been trying to ascertain how and why this happened through the police. They’ve also sought assurances from the defence counsel that although the brief was in their [possession] for months it wasn’t looked at.
‘It’s still a moveable feast but it’s something that may happen in the next three weeks or so.’
‘… When the time comes, I’m happy to provide the full back and forth correspondence from the DPP and AFP.’
Laura Tingle: ‘Oh Britt. I’m so sorry. You need this like a hole in the head. How sh*t. How f***ing outrageous. Thanks for filling me in. David hadn’t mentioned it.
‘I will, of course, keep it firmly in the vault. Just sing out, of course, if and when you want to provide the full lot. Lots of hugs and boxing gloves in the meantime.
‘And [pet cat] Boo (if she wasn’t fast asleep on the back deck) would also be sending love.’
Brittany Higgins: ‘Thank you again. Sending you the best for the coming budget week! Hope you are well x’
Laura Tingle: ‘Thanks! I must confess I’m not looking forward to it…or the campaign. The past week of grubbiness over Kimberley Kitching has left me feeling quite ill.’
April 20, 2022
Brittany Higgins: ‘Hi Laura, hope you are well. Just letting you know tht I’m going to lodge the formal complaint against the AFP today.
‘These are the notes compiled by the DPP Shane Drumgold in relation to the police misconduct.’
[five screenshots attached]
Laura Tingle: ‘Hi Darls, apologies for not getting back to you yesterday…but it’s a crazy day as D may have explained…hoping to look at this tomorrow.. does Tuesday publication work?’
Laura Tingle: ‘Hi Britt. Apologies at being slow about this. Hadn’t counted on being crook today. Just going through the docos. First just wanted to check the status of the material from the DPP?
‘Can I quote directly from it as coming from the DPP and provided to you for the purpose of making the complaint (or just advising you what has happened)?
‘(P.s. this whole thing is SO outrageous…but I guess I don’t have to tell you that!)’
Brittany Higgins: ‘No problems! Hope you are on the mend. Yes, the DPP provided me with this written account to help with the complaint. As long s it’s made clear that the comments attributed to the DPP came from emails seen by the ABC.
‘I’m happy to reconfirm with Shane in the morning just to make sure he’s comfortable.’
Brittany Higgins, responding to ‘this is SO outrageous’: ‘It’s shockingly bad form. The whole process between the police and dealing with the Govt behind the scenes has been a nightmare.’
Laura Tingle: ‘Hi Britt, just to let you know I’m keen to keep pushing on this. I have written a draft pending clarification from the DPP about using that information that has been provided to you (and the best way of attributing it).
‘I have signalled to the program that I have written something for online and am getting the ABC lawyers involved early – before I formally seek comments from all the various players – so there should not be any problems.
‘You mentioned you would talk to Shane and that’s probably a good idea. But I of course will have to approach his office for a statement later.’
Brittany Higgins: Oh great news. Thank you, I appreciate how tricky these types of stories are for publishers from a legal standpoint.
‘Yes, I’ve emailed Shane and will endeavour to speak with him shortly. Best, Britt.’
Laura Tingle: ‘Excellent! Here’s hoping we can jump all the hurdles and get it away today.’
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk