Brittany Higgins settles personal injury claim against the commonwealth | Australian politics
Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has settled her personal injury claim against the commonwealth after a short mediation, according to her lawyers, but the dollar value of the settlement will remain confidential.
Noor Blumer of Blumers Lawyers issued a statement on Tuesday night confirming the development. “At a mediation held today, the commonwealth and Ms Higgins settled her claims,” it said.
Blumer said the terms of the settlement would remain confidential “at the request of Ms Higgins”.
News that Higgins would pursue the personal injury claim coincided with a decision by prosecutors to drop charges against Bruce Lehrmann for the alleged rape of Higgins because of concern another trial would risk her wellbeing.
Lehrmann had maintained his innocence to allegations that he raped Higgins, a colleague and fellow political staffer, in the office of the then-defence industry minister, Linda Reynolds, in March 2019.
The Lehrmann case collapsed due to juror misconduct last month. The collapse of the trial leaves Lehrmann with the presumption of innocence. He pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexual intercourse without consent and has always maintained that no sexual activity occurred between him and Higgins.
The trial’s collapse has also precipitated an extraordinary series of complaints, calls for inquiries, and legal threats.
Lehrmann is reported to be contemplating suing media outlets for defamation, including the ABC, the Australian, and Network 10’s The Project.
Meanwhile, the Australian Capital Territory’s director of public prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, SC has made extraordinary allegations about the conduct of police during the investigation and trial, saying they pressured him not to pursue the case. The police union has dismissed the allegations as smears and the police chief, Neil Gaugha, has said they are untested.
Pressure is also growing on the ACT government to announce some form of public inquiry into the affair. Almost every party involved has called for some form of inquiry and it is now being seriously contemplated by chief minister Andrew Barr’s cabinet.
The cabinet met on Monday afternoon and discussed the possibility of a broad-ranging, independent inquiry.
“The cabinet discussed how a broad-ranging, independent inquiry could help to identify the roles played by the parties involved in the trial and whether these actions were appropriate,” Barr said. “These discussions also noted that an [Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity] investigation is currently under way.”
Higgins has also complained about police conduct prior to the trial, alleging they distributed a USB stick containing, among other things, her private counselling notes to Lehrmann’s defence. The defence says they did not access the documents. She has complained to ACT policing and is still waiting on the results of the internal investigation.
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