Brittany Higgins fled Canberra during Bruce Lehrmann rape trial for Port Macquarie with David Sharaz

Journalists were barred from reporting anything the jury did not hear until the trial was over. Here is what we couldn’t report at the time.


While broadcast, much of Brittany Higgins’ speech to the media on the day the jury was dismissed could not be republished as it could prejudice a future trial.

Indeed, Mr Lehrmann’s lawyer referred the speech to the Federal Police as it was laden with potentially contemptuous remarks about the way she believed she was treated by the justice system.

‘I chose to speak up. To speak up against rape, speak up against injustice, to speak up and share my experiences with others. I told the truth, no matter how uncomfortable or unflattering, to the court,’ she told hordes of TV cameras.

‘Today’s outcome does not change that truth. When I did speak up, I never fully understood how asymmetrical the criminal justice system is, but I do now.’


State Liberal member for Bonney, Samuel O’Connor, 27, gave evidence via audio-visual link from the Gold Coast on day 10 of the trial. 

At the conclusion of his evidence, Justice McCallum said: ‘Mr O’Connor, I have to ask, are you the youngest member of parliament?’

He smiled and said: ‘Oh. There’s two younger than me now.’

He was then referred to as ‘Samuel O’Connor, apparently not the youngest member of parliament,’ by members of the defence, the prosecution, and by Justice McCallum throughout the remainder of court proceedings.


Former defence minister Linda Reynolds proved difficult to get hold of because she was at a conference in Rwanda and the time difference was a factor.

The chief justice, at one stage, suggested court proceedings begin earlier one morning, but to no avail. Eventually, Justice McCallum asked: ‘Has she been subpoenaed?’

Prosecutor Shane Drumgold said she had, which meant she was required to appear when called upon.

The prosecution eventually received a note from the senator’s assistant that read: ‘Linda Reynolds will be available from 3pm today.’

‘Yes, well, that’s very helpful,’ Justice McCallum replied.


There were conversations about tacos and margaritas when defence lawyer Steven Whybrow was speaking about a text message exchange between Ms Higgins and her friend Ben Dilloway the day after the alleged assault.

The defence lawyer was trying to determine whether the ex-staffer made complaints about her alleged rape within the days immediately following March 23, 2019. 

But Justice McCallum said Ms Higgins could talk about tacos and margaritas all she liked and it didn’t necessarily mean she wasn’t assaulted the night before.


During the last week of the trial, Justice McCallum told the court, in a severe tone, that two online news outlets had published the transcript of Bruce Lehrmann’s evidence-in-chief interview.

She asked those journalists to respond to her accordingly, but conceded that transcript was presented as an exhibit. Reporters were permitted to publish exhibits, not transcripts. 


The chief justice who presided over the case occasionally lends her music prowess to inter-firm competition, Law Rocks – where law firms turn into bands and battle it out on stage to raise money for charity. 

She also rock climbs, runs marathons, rides mountain bikes, and her husband was the lead guitarist for Australian punk rock band, Lime Spiders. 

Chief Justice McCallum spoke very warmly to all witnesses and jurors, thanking them sincerely for their time and allowing them moments of reprieve when emotions ran high. 

Despite the serious nature of the case, she managed to maintain an appropriate level of humour throughout – often triggering laughter from the public gallery.

Moments after jurors were dismissed for the weekend after their first few days of deliberations, she told the court that she had been looking into the history of juries – dating back to around the 13th century.

Justice McCallum said it was customary at the time to deprive jurors of light, food and water until they made a decision. If they still could not agree, they were carted around town until they had a verdict.

‘We will not be doing that with this jury,’ she said, smiling. ‘Have a restful weekend, everyone.’ 

When the jury told her they were unable to reach a verdict in the final week of deliberations, she urged them to go back and reconsider. 

Once they left the courtroom, she clearly felt the pressure they were under and said: ‘You just want to bake them some cookies or something, don’t you?’