The Australian rape case that sparked nationwide protests won’t return to court after a miscarriage of justice because heavy public scrutiny could take a serious toll on the mental health of accusers, prosecutors say said on Friday.
Former political aide Brittany Higgins, 27, told her fellow conservative staffer Bruce Lehrmann, 27, to slap her in the Cabinet after binge drinking in March 2019. claimed to have been raped on a couch in parliament.
The allegations first came to light in early 2021 through media reports and sparked multiple scrutiny of national protests and Australian political culture in the context of the global #MeToo movement.
The trial ended in suspicion earlier this year after court sheriffs discovered jurors with copies of documents prohibited by the court’s strict rules.
Prosecutor Shane Drumgold said plans for a second trial were shelved to protect Higgins’ health.
“The ongoing trauma associated with this indictment poses a significant and unacceptable risk to the petitioner’s life,” he said.
“We have made the difficult decision that it is no longer in the public interest to risk the lives of plaintiffs to prosecute.”
Shortly after Higgins’ allegations aired, about 100,000 people marched in cities across Australia in demonstrations against sexual violence.
Five separate surveys were conducted, collectively making a scathing accusation of the often sexist nature of Australian politics.
Drumgold said Higgins suffered an unprecedented level of abuse after she came forward with her allegations.
“Ms Higgins has faced a level of personal attack she has never seen in her more than 20 years in the business.
“She has done so with courage, grace and dignity.
Earlier this year, Higgins sobbed while speaking outside the courtroom after the hearing was over, saying, “No matter how uncomfortable or flattered I was in court, I told the truth.”
“I chose to speak up, to speak up and share my experience with others,” she said.
“He didn’t face a single question in court about his story and criminal charges.”
Lehrmann denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to one count of sex without consent.