What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 31 July 2023 – 6 August 2023

Landmark Report from Board of Inquiry into Bruce Lehrmann Trial Leaked

A leaked report from the inquiry into the trial of Bruce Lehrmann has found that the prosecution was properly brought against Mr Lehrmann. However, the report has made findings against the Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold. According to the article, sources have confirmed that Walter Sofronoff KC, a former Queensland Supreme Court judge, found that “police acted lawfully when they charged Mr Lehrmann.” Further, the report found that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) was correct to prosecute Mr Lehrmann on the available evidence. However, the finding of Mr Sofronoff KC is not indicative of the guilt or innocence of Mr Lehrmann. Mr Lehrmann has consistently denied the previous claims against him and maintained his innocence. According to the article, Mr Sofronoff stated in the report that “no person before him said the prosecution should not properly have been brought.” The Sofronoff inquiry was brought by the ACT government following the abandoned prosecution case against Mr Lehrmann. The Board of Inquiry report, which had been handed to the ACT government on Monday this week, is to examine “what really went on behind the scenes in the nation’s most high-profile rape trial.” The decision of the Barr government to withhold the release of the document has been greatly criticised. Further, according to the article, Mr Lehrmann is reportedly to commence a multi-million dollar compensation claim against the ACT ODPP. Mr Lehrmann stated that he “will be guided by the report and call for its release as a matter of urgency.” Further, he said that “if it finds that the director acted with malice or against his duties as DPP and as an officer of the court, I will be considering a multimillion dollar claim for damages and compensation from the ODPP and the ACT government.”

Senator Linda Reynolds Sues Brittany Higgins for Defamation

Western Australian Senator Linda Reynolds is suing her former Canberra political staffer Brittany Higgins for defamation over two social media posts. Ms Reynolds has alleged that Ms Higgins defamed her on two posts made to Instagram and Twitter. Further, Ms Reynolds is claiming that Ms Higgins breached a settlement contract that contained a non-disparagement clause. According to the article, the clause prevented her from speaking negatively of Ms Reynolds. Ms Higgins was a previous employee of Ms Reynolds before she alleged that she was raped by former colleague Bruce Lehrmann. The trial against Mr Lehrmann was abandoned last year after a juror brought prohibited material into the jury room. A re-trial was abandoned due to “an ‘unacceptable risk to the life’ of Ms Higgins due to ongoing trauma of the case.” Mr Lehrmann has always denied the claims and has maintained his innocence. Ms Reynolds threatened legal action against Ms Higgins in July of this year, stating that she had been the “target of unwarranted criticism and abuse” after Ms Higgins publicised her rape claims. According to the article, Ms Reynolds is seeking aggravated damages, an injunction preventing Ms Higgins from publishing defamatory material and another injunction to prevent her from breaching the settlement contract. Ms Reynolds stated that “Ms Higgins continues to use the media to make defamatory comments about my conduct notwithstanding the existence of facts and evidence to the contrary.”

ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold Resigns

ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold has resigned following the leaked report into Bruce Lehrmann’s trial earlier this week. According to the article, Mr Drumgold has tendered his resignation and an announcement will be made on Monday next week. Mr Drumgold had been on leave since May this year after giving evidence in an inquiry into the conduct of criminal justice agencies. Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury confirmed Mr Drumgold’s resignation, stating that the DPP’s position was “no longer tenable.” Mr Sofronoff KC found that the result of a letter sent by Mr Drumgold in November last year “caused lasting pain to many people and which demonstrated his allegations to be not just incorrect, but wholly false and without any rational basis.” According to the article, Mr Drumgold had informed colleagues that he was “in absolute shock” after the report was provided to two media outlets “by the inquiry chairman Walter Sofronoff KC without the authorisation of the ACT Government.” The report found that Mr Drumgold “knowingly lied” to the ACT Supreme Court “over his purported warning to Lisa Wilkinson over her Logies speech.” Further, the report found “evidence of unethical conduct by Mr Drumgold, including his use of a note concerning a discussion he held with Ms Wilkinson just days before her speech.” It found that Mr Drumgold used “dishonest means to prevent a person he was prosecuting from lawfully obtaining material.” Following the abandonment of the trial against Mr Lehrmann, Mr Drumgold implied he “personally believed Ms Higgins’ complaint of rape was true and that, as a consequence, Mr Lehrmann is guilty.” Mr Sofronoff found that this additionally improper conduct on behalf of the DPP.

Employees Can Now Access Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave

From 1 August 2023, workers employed by small business will now be able to access 10 paid days of family and domestic violence leave. The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations (Tony Burke) stated this week that “no one should have to choose between their safety and their pay” and that “paid family and domestic violence leave is a workplace entitlement that will save lives.” Social Services Amanda Rishworth stated that “the measure would allow victims of family violence to take time off work without losing income or their job.” According to an information page from the Fair Work Ombudsman, the leave entitlements apply to full-time, part-time and casual employees within a 12-month period. The new family and domestic violence entitlements are now aligned with the earlier rights granted in February of this year, which was accessible to employees in large or medium businesses.