The top prosecutor in ‘s rape trial has been accused of ‘misleading’ the public and the Chief Justice of the ACT about what happened during his meeting with prior to her controversial speech.
ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold SC, was grilled by the TV star’s lawyer Sue Chrysanthou SC on Friday at a Board of Inquiry into the conduct of the prosecution and the Australian Federal Police before, during and after Mr Lehrmann’s aborted trial.
Wilkinson faced extreme criticism after she won an award for her interview where first aired her allegations that Mr Lehrmann raped her in Parliament House in 2019.The speech led Mr Lehrmann’s trial to be delayed. He has always denied the allegations.
During the inquiry on Friday, Mr Drumgold admitted failing to correct a file note he wrote following a meeting with Wilkinson and her Channel 10 lawyer in the lead-up to the TV awards last June.
Mr Drumgold also claimed he believed Wilkinson knew she should not mention Ms Higgins in her Logies speech because, he claimed, he saw her having a private conversation with Channel 10’s lawyer while muted on Microsoft Teams.
That prompted Ms Chrysanthou to say ‘the answer you just gave is illogical and irrational and contrary to human experience’.She then went on to suggest he somehow ‘telepathically’ knew what Wilkinson and the lawyer were thinking.
Lisa Wilkinson faced extreme criticism after she won a Logie for her interview with Brittany Higgins, the former Liberal staffer who accused Bruce Mr Lehrmann of raping her in Parliament House in 2019.Wilkinson is pictured with Ms Higgins’s partner David Sharaz
The inquiry opened with Mr Drumgold insisting that his file note about discussions with Wilkinson and her lawyer was contemporaneous, meaning he made it immediately following the meeting.
However, under cross-examination, Mr Drumgold admitted that the note was not contemporaneous, but was actually made days after the meeting.
The note was actually penned about five days later – three hours before a hearing with all legal teams involved in the rape trial about the impact of Wilkinson’s Logies speech and whether it would bias a jury.
It was handed to Chief Justice Lucy McCallum, who said in the ACT Supreme Court at the time that she believed it was contemporaneous and strongly criticised Wilkinson for her Logies speech.
Under cross-examination, Mr Drumgold eventually conceded he should have corrected the Chief Justice.
Ms Chrysanthou pointed out that Mr Drumgold’s junior counsel during the trial, Skye Jerome, had a different recollection of the meeting with Wilkinson.
Ms Jerome recalled Wilkinson had read a significant portion of her Logies speech during the meeting, before Mr Drumgold cut her off and said ‘I’m not a speech writer’.
Wilkinson’s lawyer Sue Chrysanthou SC submitted the ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC to a fiery round of cross-examination at a Board of Inquiry into the Bruce Lehrmann rape trial on Friday
During her Logies acceptance speech, which was broadcast nationally, Wilkinson appeared to side with Ms Higgins – saying she ‘believed’ her allegations.She did not mention the trial, Mr Lehrmann, any criminal charge or Parliament House in her speech.
Chief Justice McCallum, who was presiding over the ACT Supreme Court rape trial, moved the hearing from June to October amid fears Wilkinson’s comments would bias a jury.
At the time, the Chief Justice said Wilkinson was warned against making public comments about the impending hearing.The public backlash was so severe Wilkinson left her job as host of The Project.
‘Did you read their lips?’
Mr Drumgold has long-maintained he believed Wilkinson knew she should not mention Ms Higgins in her Logies speech because he told her ‘any publicity could impact the trial’.
Mr Drumgold told the inquiry he formed that view because after he made that statement Wilkinson and her lawyer put their Microsoft Teams meeting on mute and had a private conversation.
‘I was confident they knew she couldn’t make that speech,’ Mr Drumgold said.
Ms Chrysanthou: ‘Did you read their lips?’
Mr Drumgold: ‘No’.
Ms Chrysanthou: ‘Then how could you have possibly made that conclusion?’
Mr Drumgold: ‘Because an experienced journalist sitting next to a lawyer would have come to that conclusion.’
Ms Chrysanthou eventually said: ‘The answer you just gave is illogical and irrational and contrary to human experience.’
Wilkinson’s lawyer also quizzed Mr Drumgold about why he didn’t correct the Chief Justice’s belief that his file note was contemporaneous.
The ACT DPP, Shane Drumgold SC, is pictured during the Board of Inquiry in Canberra.
‘Do you accept that the manner you conducted yourself in court that day, in the manner of those conversations, was unacceptable?’ Ms Chrysanthou said.
‘No, I don’t accept that,’ Mr Drumgold responded.
‘There was sufficient warning in both our minds [his and Ms Jerome’s] that Ms Wilkinson had sufficient warning.There was ample warning provided to Ms Wilkinson that she should not have made the speech.’
Ms Chrysanthou: ‘What you say now about that cannot be true.’
Mr Drumgold: ‘It is true.’
Ms Chrysanthou: ‘That you somehow telepathically thought my client – having read out the substance of her speech to you – would have left that meeting knowing she could not make that speech?
Mr Drumgold: ‘I’m saying I thought she shouldn’t give a speech about this matter.’
Ms Chrysanthou referred to the court hearing where Justice McCallum slammed Wilkinson for failing to heed Mr Drumgold’s warning that she shouldn’t give the Logies speech.
Mr Drumgold claimed footage of Bruce Lehrmann (pictured) and Brittany Higgins ‘disappeared’
‘Her honour was handed the proofing note and was observing it – [in the court transcript] you say the speech was “undesirable – the proofing notes can be open to interpretation”,’ she said.
Ms Chrysanthou then explained that proofing notes were normally used in criminal cases and were taken as contemporaneous notes: ‘You’re misleading the Chief Justice,’ she said.
Mr Drumgold: ‘Not intentionally.’
Ms Chrysanthou further submitted that Mr Drumgold caused the ‘destruction’ of Wilkinson in submitting the file note which he said was contemporaneous, but wasn’t.
At the close of the cross-examination, Ms Chryanthou asked Mr Drumgold if he should have corrected the reports about Wilkinson. He replied: ‘I should have corrected that, in hindsight.’
Earlier, Mr Drumgold said he thought there was a minute chance Wilkinson would actually win a Logie, but also conceded he didn’t know the difference between a gold and a silver Logie or how many people watched the TV awards.
Wilkinson previously accused Mr Drumgold of breaching her trust and his duty as a legal officer, and misleading the Chief Justice in a submission released by the Board of inquiry on Thursday.
Pictured: Brittany Higgins (left) and Lisa Wilkinson (right)
Earlier this week, the Board of Inquiry revealed Wilkinson did not believe Mr Drumgold warned her that her speech could potentially jeopardise an impending court case.
Channel Ten lawyers contacted Mr Drumgold five times between June and December last year, begging him to clear Wilkinson of any wrongdoing in the public eye but he never did.
According to a series of documents released by the Board of Inquiry, Wilkinson blames Mr Drumgold for failing to clear her name.
Included in the documents supplied to the Board of Inquiry was a statement and a submission made on Wilkinson’s behalf by Ms Chrysanthou.
The submission read: ‘Ms Wilkinson wishes to ensure that in the ongoing interests of strong public interest journalism – the backbone upon which a strong, fair and democratic society is based.’
‘Investigative journalists across the country should not be misrepresented by legal officers in whom they have placed their trust any opportunity to correct the public record when that trust is shown to have been misplaced.’
Brittany Higgins is pictured outside the ACT Supreme Court in October
Further, the submission alleged Mr Drumgold failed ‘to afford procedural fairness to Ms Wilkinson’ after the Chief Justice made incorrect comments saying the journalist was warned about giving her Logie’s speech.
It also said Mr Drumgold repeatedly failed to publicly correct the record and called on the inquiry to investigate and report on the ‘general conduct of the prosecution’.
According to the submission, Mr Drumgold told Channel Ten lawyers that he ‘might say something in open court’ to clear Wilkinsons’s name in June, after her speech.
Failing that, lawyers for the network urged him to mention Wilkinson during his public address on December 2 last year, when he said the criminal charge against Mr Lehrmann had been dropped.He didn’t.
The inquiry continues next week.