Juror who caused Bruce Lehrmann trial to be aborted brought in two other research papers, judge reveals

The man who has denied he raped Brittany Higgins is facing the prospect of another trial after a juror brought academic papers on sexual assault into the jury room

The juror who caused the Bruce Lehrmann trial to be aborted brought a further two research papers on sexual assault into the jury room, which were discovered after the trial was abandoned on Thursday.

The Lehrmann trial collapsed in sensational circumstances on Thursday after it was revealed a juror had brought in a research paper on sexual assault, contrary to repeated instructions.

In written reasons published late on Thursday, chief justice Lucy McCallum revealed that a further two documents have since been found. They were brought in by the same juror.

“Following the discharge of the jury, I was informed by the sheriff’s officers that the same juror was also in possession of two additional academic articles on the topic of sexual assault,” McCallum wrote in a footnote.

McCallum had told jurors at least 17 times that they should not conduct outside research. The direction was given in no uncertain terms every day of the trial, sometimes on multiple occasions.

Jurors in the ACT cannot be punished for such misconduct. There is no offence available for the courts to mete out penalties to jurors who make their own inquiries about the case.

That puts the ACT at odds with New South Wales, where jurors can be fined if they “make an inquiry for the purpose of obtaining information about the accused, or any matters relevant to the trial”.

Lehrmann now faces the prospect of a retrial in February 2023 in the ACT supreme court.

The first trial heard from 29 witnesses over almost three weeks, and the jury took another week for deliberations.

The first research paper discovered by sheriff’s officers attempted to quantify the prevalence of false complaints of sexual assault. It also included an analysis of the reasons for false complaints and why some are sceptical of true complaints. McCallum said the paper could have been used to influence jurors either way in the case.

“At the very least, the fact that the paper was located and taken into the jury room by the juror indicates that it may have influenced that juror’s contribution to the jury’s deliberations,” McCallum said. “The unfairness to both parties is manifest.”

Lehrmann is accused of raping Higgins in the early hours of 23 March 2019 in Parliament House. He pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent.

• This article was amended on 17 November 2022 to remove the statement that a recording of Higgins’ evidence could be replayed during a retrial. It emerged that ACT law does not currently allow for video recordings of a complainant’s evidence to be played to a retrial, if the complainant has given evidence in person.


Christopher Knaus

The GuardianTramp