Why isn’t the Brittany Higgins trial conducted by Judge alone?

Oct 6, 2022 | Publication | 0 comments

The trial of Bruce Lehrmann who is charged with sexual intercourse with Brittany Higgins without consent commenced on 4 October before 16 jurors.

Given the significant media reporting over the allegations, the non-existence of provision for a judge alone trial in the ACT has drawn fresh criticism.

In the ACT, the law requires sexual assault trials to take place before a jury and does not provide an option for the parties to elect for there to be a judge alone trial. This is unlike in New South Wales.

In May 2022, the representatives for the accused, Mr Lehrmanm, brought an application for a permanent stay of proceedings on the basis that the intense and prolonged publicity would make it impossible to find 12 impartial jurors required for a fair trial.

The application was to permanently halt the proceedings, which is different to a temporary stay application which, if successful, would result in a trial being postponed until the impact of the unfair prejudice subsides.

Mr Lehrmann also applied for a take-down order requiring media outlets to delete reports about the case, as well as a non-publication order prohibiting the media from further publishing reports until the trial is concluded.

However, Chief Justice Lucy McCallum “concluded that all of the relief sought in the application must be refused”.

In May 2022, journalist Lisa Wilkinson won a Logie award for most outstanding news coverage or public affairs report for her work on the Higgins allegations and in her speech referred to her coverage of the Higgins story.

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