On Thursday, 27 October 2022, after a 12-day trial and 5 days of deliberations, the jury panel in the rape trial of Bruce Lehrmann were discharged. Chief Justice Lucy McCallum had no choice but to discharge the jury after it was discovered that a jury member had brought in outside evidence to the deliberation room. This is prohibited under the Juries Act 1967, and the jury had been warned at least 17 times by Her Honour Chief Justice McCallum regarding this behaviour.
After the jury was discharged, Her Honour Chief Justice McCallum relisted the matter for trial, and warned the complainant and accused about making comments in the media that may impact the accused right to a fair trial. Her Honour further warned that any such comments could be considered contempt of court under the ACT Criminal Code.
Both the accused and Ms Higgins were present in Court when the Chief Justice gave this warning.
The accused through his legal representative declined the opportunity to address the media after these warnings, on the basis it would be both “inappropriate and irresponsible” given Her Honours warnings.
Ms Higgins however, addressed the media, delivering what the accused lawyers say was a pre-prepared speech, setting out the injustices she felt throughout the trial proceedings.
The accused lawyers sought urgent legal advice in relation to Ms Higgins speech and referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police for investigation.
The investigation will look into whether Ms Higgins comments amount to the criminal offence of contempt of court.
The maximum penalty for contempt of court in Queensland is 1 year imprisonment or a fine to the value of 84 penalty units.
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