‘Atomic stupidity’: Fresh texts in Higgins case

NCA 27OCT22_HIGGINS LEHRMANN TRIAL
Prosecutors in the Bruce Lehrmann trial texted each other criticising the conduct of police officers who investigated Brittany Higgins’ allegations, according to documents tendered to an inquiry. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Prosecutors in the Bruce Lehrmann trial texted each other criticising the conduct of police officers who investigated Brittany Higgins’ allegations, according to documents tendered to an inquiry.

The series of text messages sent by Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold and crown prosecutor Skye Jerome on the evening of May 11, 2022 were released by the ACT board of inquiry on Tuesday.

Mr Drumgold tendered the messages as part of his statement to the inquiry that outlined the breakdown of the relationship between his office and the police during the matter.

In the statement, he said the conversation between the co-workers was to “work out whether the conduct of the AFP could be explained by ‘unsophisticated corruption’ or ‘atomic level stupidity’.”

Mr Drumgold sent Ms Jerome a diary note made by Detective Superintendent Scott Moller on June 17 2021 which was included as part of the officer’s statement.

diary note by Scott Moller on June 17.
Diary note by Detective Moller on June 17, as tendered to the inquiry.

The note by Detective Moller recalled a conversation he had with then-deputy chief police officer Michael Chew about the investigation.

“DCPO advised he had a meeting with DPP who stated they would recommend prosecution. DCPO stated ‘if it was my choice I wouldn’t proceed but it (sic) not my choice,” the note read.

“There is to (sic) much political interference.

“I said ‘That’s inappropriate given I think there is insufficient evidence’.”

The diary note prompted Ms Jerome to ask her colleague “why would one need to record that thought process”.

“They both require a lesson on reasonable suspicion,” she said.

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Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
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Crown prosecutor Skye Jerome. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

A major flashpoint in the inquiry for Mr Drumgold was the perception Detective Moller and Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman did not want him to proceed with a prosecution.

He claimed in the messages the file note shed light on his perception.

“It is abundantly clear that people from the top did not want this to proceed,” the DPP wrote to Ms Jerome.

“The real question is why? It is highly unusual for a DCPO to get involved in a fairly basis (sic) sex matter!

He continued: “I am still toggling between unsophisticated corruption and atomic level stupidity

“Why would you put that in your notebook? ….To document your cover up?”

In his statement to the inquiry, Mr Drumgold rejected suggestions his advice to prosecute was made because he was placed under “political pressure”.

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Texts between Mr Drumgold and Ms Jerome.

“I can categorically state that, at no time before 17 June 2021, or ever, was political pressure placed on me in relation to the prosecution - other than of what I perceived as a campaign of pressure from police to agree with them that the matter should not proceed to charges, and the other conduct of police as set out in this statement,” he wrote.

Mr Drumgold first raised concerns about “political and police conduct” in a letter he sent the ACT’s chief of police in the days following the mistrial, which ultimately sparked the inquiry.

Giving evidence last week, the DPP said a series of “strange events” led him to believe there was political pressure to “make the matter go away”.

However just a day later, he hosed down that claim.

The DPP told the inquiry he was wrong to suspect interference and after reading police statements to the inquiry he had concluded a “skills deficit” was more likely to blame.

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Mr Drumgold later dropped the charge against Mr Lehrmann. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Defence barrister Steven Whybrow SC told the inquiry he did not agree with suggestion police had been resentful of Mr Drumgold throughout the matter.

“I don't mean that they were loving and kind,” he said.

“My impression was that it was Mr Drumgold who was hostile towards the police.“

Detective Moller will be the first witness called before the inquiry when it reconvenes next week.

Mr Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexually assaulting his former colleague Ms Higgins before the trial was aborted due to jury misconduct.

Mr Lehrmann has continually denied the allegation and the DPP declined to pursue a second trial due to concerns over Ms Higgins’ mental health and dropped the charge.

The inquiry, chaired by retired judge Walter Sofronoff, is due to report back to the ACT government by July 31.