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Cracks in relationship between DPP and police ‘no surprise’

Clandestine coffee meetings, “unnecessary” comments and body language tipped Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyer off to the possibility that the relationship between the ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions and investigative police officers had soured.

user iconNaomi Neilson 17 May 2023 Big Law
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Defence barrister Steven Whybrow SC said there were several red flags during Mr Lehrmann’s trial, including DPP Shane Drumgold SC’s behaviour towards police officers before, during and after the investigation into Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations and trial.

Mr Lehrmann has maintained his innocence.

Mr Whybrow told an inquiry examining the prosecution that one of his concerns came up after he received a text from Detective Inspector Marcus Boorman in late October with a request for updates on jury deliberations.

 
 

In the text, Mr Boorman said he had “no confidence” the DPP would.

Six days later, Mr Whybrow met an “anxious, agitated and concerned” Mr Boorman at The Cupping Room café across the road from the ACT Supreme Court. Mr Boorman said he wanted to talk out of the “direct line of sight” from the DPP’s office.

While hidden away, Mr Boorman told Mr Whybrow he believed Mr Lehrmann was innocent, and he was prepared to resign from his role if the jury came back with a guilty verdict.

These conversations, paired with Mr Drumgold’s body language around police and comments he made about their skill set in front of the jury, were enough for Mr Whybrow to see something was wrong.

“It was just an observation that there was no real communication between them,” Mr Whybrow told the inquiry on Tuesday (16 May).

“When Mr Boorman asked me to let him know about the jury, that didn’t come as any surprise to me.”

Earlier that same month, Mr Whybrow said he and Mr Drumgold received a list of officers’ names that the defence wanted to question.

During a break in the trial, Mr Drumgold allegedly approached Mr Whybrow and said something like, “any opinion by those boofheads about the strength of this case is not admissible”.

“I do not think at the time, and do not think now, that the comment was appropriate,” Mr Whybrow said in his statement to the inquiry.

Lawyer for Mr Drumgold, Mark Tedeschi, suggested this comment was made counsel to counsel and subjected to confidentiality.

While Mr Whybrow accepted there are often comments made between defence and prosecutor, or anyone in the courtroom, that would fall under this privilege, he did not believe this comment did.

“I thought it was a pejorative comment that I didn’t understand as a confidential counsel-to-counsel communication,” Mr Whybrow said.

“I thought it was an outburst from the director in the context of other things he had already said in front of the jury.”