‘Are you serious’: Lisa’s lawyer hits back
A lawyer for Lisa Wilkinson has unleashed on the ACT’s top prosecutor, claiming he did not correct the record about a warning he gave her ahead of the Logies and he allowed the media to “destroy” her.
Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC faced a fifth day of questioning at an inquiry into how criminal justice agencies handled Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation against Bruce Lehrmann on Friday.
Two of the issues before the inquiry are whether the DPP warned Wilkinson in the days before she gave an acceptance speech at the Logies and if he should have made it clear that file notes sent to the defence were taken at the time of a meeting with the Channel 10 journalist.
Mr Drumgold has repeatedly said he warned Wilkinson during a meeting that any further publicity could give rise to a delay in Mr Lehrmann’s trial – which ultimately occurred.
But he conceded the notes of the meeting he held with Wilkinson were amended to include his recollection of the conversation about the award ceremony after it had taken place.
Wilkinson’s counsel, Sue Chrysanthou SC, emphatically rejected claims her client was warned and outlined the number of opportunities the DPP had to inform Chief Justice Lucy McCallum that notes of the meeting had changed.
Ms McCallum’s ruling to vacate the initial June 2022 trial date was a direct response to the speech, of which she was particularly critical, and the publicity that followed.
Ms Chrysanthou said as a result, Wilkinson was “destructed” by several media outlets for being perceived as failing to “heed his (Mr Drumgold) warning”.
“After that judgment you accept that you saw at that time that Ms Wilkinson was destroyed by the media?” Ms Chrysanthou asked.
“No,” Mr Drumgold began, “I did not read that.”
“Are you serious?” the barrister hit back. “You didn’t walk past the newsagents and see big colour photos of my client saying ‘reckless journalism’ and things to that effect?”
“Well, no. In cases like this I stay away from the media,” Mr Drumgold responded.
He repeated his claim that it was not his job to correct what he perceived as incorrect media reports.
But Mr Drumgold conceded that while he viewed the meeting notes as accurate, he conceded “in hindsight” he should have alerted the Chief Justice that he added his warning at a later date.
Inquiry chair Walter Sofronoff KC said if Ms McCallum had been made aware, she could have called Wilkinson and other witnesses to give their account of the meeting.
“It might have changed Her Honour’s view about the degree of criticism to which she later subjected Ms Wilkinson,” he said.
In a statement to the inquiry, the television journalist said she would not have given the speech had she been warned by Mr Drumgold.
“If Mr Drumgold had told me not to give the speech, I would have followed that advice,’’ Wilkinson wrote.
It comes as Mr Drumgold faced tense questioning by Australian Federal Police counsel Kate Richardson SC, who asked whether it was improper for him to make “the gravest allegation” that there was a political conspiracy in the high-profile case.
Mr Drumgold told the hearing on Wednesday that a series of “strange events” led him to believe there was political pressure to “make the matter go away”.
But just a day later he hosed down his suspicion, saying that he accepted he was wrong to say a political conspiracy was “probable” after reading “all” statements tendered to the inquiry.
On Friday, Mr Drumgold withdrew any suggestion of political interference between federal ministers, the AFP commissioner and ACT Policing during the case.
Mr Drumgold first raised concerns about “political and police conduct” during the investigation and trial in a scathing letter he sent to ACT Chief of Police Neil Gaughan last November that sparked the inquiry.
In the letter, Mr Drumgold outlined his suspicions about the behaviour of police and witnesses, including Liberal senators Linda Reynolds and Michaelia Cash, which he repeated on Wednesday.
On Friday, Mr Drumgold said he should have made it clearer that his answers earlier in the week referred to his state of mind at the time of the letter to Mr Gaughan.
“I was not saying, ‘here I sit today, I hold in my mind a possibility’,” Mr Drumgold responded.
“I accept I probably should’ve injected the addendum.”
The breakdown of the relationship between the DPP and police throughout the investigation and trial has been central to the inquiry.
Mr Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexually assaulting Ms Higgins before the trial was aborted due to jury misconduct.
He 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.
Mr Lehrmann’s defence counsel, Steven Whybrow SC, will be questioned when the inquiry returns on Monday.