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Bruce Lerman’s lawyers claim Scott Morrison’s apology to Brittany Higgins was ‘particularly egregious’ | News Australia

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Lawyers for Bruce Lerman have accused former prime minister Scott Morrison of making a “particularly outrageous” remark during his apology to Brittany Higgins that could have damaged his chances of a fair trial, according to a newly released court filing.

In April, Lerman tried and failed to permanently dismiss the case against him, arguing that the pretrial publicity denied him a fair trial.

Lerman’s lawyers pointed to, among other things, an apology Morrison made in parliament in February to those who were sexually harassed, sexually assaulted or bullied while working in federal parliament.

Morrison used the speech to apologize specifically to Higgins for the “terrible things that happened here.” Higgins was sitting in the public gallery at the time.

The ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday released its reasons for refusing Lerman’s application to stay the hearing. The court confirmed that the media can freely report on the verdict.

The decision shows that Lerman’s previous lawyers argued that Morrison’s apology to Higgins was “particularly egregious” in terms of bias.

“It was submitted that the Prime Minister’s apology was particularly egregious as it imputed wrongdoing to the defendants or at least implicitly assumed the truth of the complaint,” presiding judge Lucy McCallum wrote in her April ruling.

“The defendant argued that the effect was to elevate the applicant to a status she should not have to stand trial against the defendant. He stated that the case is unique because the applicant “enters the court with an aura about herself” and that the problem this creates is incurable.

Lerman’s attorneys argued that this made it impossible to form an impartial jury or remove bias when instructing the jury.

They argued that the “enormous publicity surrounding the applicant’s allegations” made it impossible to provide a full catalog of potentially damaging material.

McCallum said it’s not enough to simply show jurors knew about the pretrial publicity. She said the “overriding question” was whether the pre-publication could be “adequately considered by the presiding judge.”

“More specifically … a permanent stay should not be granted unless it is concluded that nothing the trial judge could do could mitigate the harm,” she wrote.

The decision noted that much of the public’s focus following Higgins’ public accusations was on the appeal.

Much of the publicity assumed the truth of her complaint, McCallum said. But the court also noted that “the comment was not unambiguous.”

“She was called a ‘liar’ and a ‘stupid little girl who got drunk’ outside a forum supporting the March 4th women’s movement,” the judge wrote.

“But in any event, accepting that much of the publicity suggests the veracity of the applicant, I am not persuaded that the matter is unsalvageable, certainly not to the extent necessary to obtain a reprieve.”

McCallum found that the “stringent” requirements for permanent residency had not been met.

“In my judgment, the need to disregard prior knowledge of the proposition or ascription of truth on the part of the appellant is something that could easily be explained to the jury by careful direction,” she said.

She was also not convinced of the need for a temporary stay.

“The grounds for the temporary stay are not compelling,” she said. “As the director explained [of public prosecutions] in his submissions, the most damaging materials were released early in the investigation and long before the accused were named or charged. I was not convinced of the need for a temporary stay.”

The jury in Lerman’s trial continues to deliberate. He pleaded not guilty to any charge of non-consensual sex.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/oct/26/bruce-lehrmanns-lawyers-argued-scott-morrisons-apology-to-brittany-higgins-was-particularly-egregious

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