Bruce Lehrmann letter to Linda Reynolds after late night visit to Parliament House with Brittany Higgins

Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann wrote to Liberal frontbencher Linda Reynolds admitting he was “feeling embarrassed, ashamed and deeply remorseful” after she discovered his late night visit to Parliament House with Brittany Higgins in 2019.

But the ACT Supreme Court has been told that Mr Lehrmann never knew until years later he was also accused of rape that night and believed he had only been accused of a security breach.

Mr Lehrmann is charged with sexually assaulting Ms Higgins at Parliament House in the early hours of March 23, 2019.

He has pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without her consent and being reckless to her consent.

This week, the ACT Supreme Court heard that after the late night visit was reported to Senator Reynolds’ office, it was initially treated as a security incident.

Mr Lehrmann was in trouble not just over the late night incident but also a previous incident that the court heard would have been “a sackable offence” for a public servant.

It sparked an exchange of letters in the week after the late night incident in which Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds asked him to show cause as to why she shouldn’t terminate him.

On Friday, April 5, 2019 Mr Lehrmann replied he was “feeling embarrassed, ashamed and deeply remorseful” for the security breach.

“I offer no excuses and accept that entering the office after hours is a breach, no matter what the reason. I do, however, refute the claim that I informed security it was for official purposes,’’ he said.

“This insinuates that I was acting under authority from you and this was in no way the case and I certainly did not make that inference.”

Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins arrived at parliament around 1.40am and entered the office at 1.48am. Mr Lehrmann then departed the office at 2.30am.

The ACT Supreme Court heard evidence from security guards this week that he told them he had work to do in the office.

During the first week of the trial, the jury was played audio of Mr Lehrmann speaking to Parliament House security via intercom on the night of the alleged assault.

“Hi mate, Bruce Lehrmann here with Minister Linda Reynolds. I have been requested to pick up some documents. I have forgotten my pass,” the court heard the accused saying in the audio

After the matter was reported to his chief of staff Fiona Brown on March 26, she told the court he initially told her he had returned to the office to drink whiskey.

The court has heard Senator Reynolds knew of Ms Higgins’ sexual assault allegation by the time she wrote the letter, but this issue was not raised with Mr Lehrmann verbally or in the letter.

“Dear Bruce, I am writing to inform you that I am considering terminating your employment on the basis of serious misconduct,’’ Senator Reynolds wrote on April 4, 2019.

“It has been brought to my attention that you recently entered Parliament House and my ministerial suite outside of business hours for non-work purposes and were dishonest about the reasons for entering my office.

“I am advised that when you sought entry to Parliament House after hours, you did so by reporting to security that you were required to attend my office for important official business.

“You have subsequently advised my Chief of Staff, Ms Fiona Brown, that this was not the case and that you entered for non-work related reasons. I understand that Ms Brown asked to speak to you before you left the office on 26 March 2019 to discuss this incident in more detail, which you failed to do.

“As a senior staff member in my office your conduct in these circumstances indicates a very serious lack of judgment which I consider to amount to serious misconduct.

“Ms Brown has discussed the importance of adhering strictly to security procedures on previous occasions, most recently when there was a security breach relating to your failure to properly handle classified documents.”

Senator Reynolds said she had sought advice from the Government Staffing Committee and the Special Minister of State regarding Mr Lehrmann’s obligations under the Statement of Standards for Ministerial Staff and how it would apply to this incident and “your subsequent behaviour”.

“I am advised that your actions constituted a serious breach of security and workplace health and safety and would appear to constitute serious misconduct under the Statement of Standards for Ministerial Staff,” she said.

“Accordingly, I feel I have no alternative other than to consider terminating your employment.”

Mr Lehrmann wrote that his actions were the result of “a serious lack of judgment on my part and I apologise and regret it happening”.

“On this matter, I also want to take the opportunity to apologise to you and Fiona directly for the position I have put you both in because of it,’’ he said.

“On the day it was raised with me I do recall apologising to Fiona because of the position she was in and I stand by that. Minister, at no time was acting with malice, ill-will or an intent to cause indirect or direct damage to you, your office or your staff.

“I do offer a further apology to Fiona for not returning on my final day. This was a particularly difficult day for me where I simply spiralled down a dark path and to see my some five years plus come to an end so quickly was very shocking for me.

“I have not known anything other than staffing and supporting various iterations of the Coalition Government through my work and through elections.”

Mr Lehrmann wrote that he was crushed by the end of his five-year career as a political staffer. He was 25 years old.

“This past week has been very difficult and I have not been in the right mind to even think about matters on Capital Hill,’’ he said.

“That is why I retreated to Queensland to see my mother who has been sick for a number of months now.

“I grew up in a very small and close family unit, my mum raised myself and sister alone after the passing of my father when I was two years old, she relied on nothing but welfare and giving up her dreams and aspirations to see her two children succeed.

“I do feel I have failed. Seeing her ill this past little while and the things that inevitably run through your mind has had a profound impact on my mental ability, decision making and what is deeply unfortunate in my mind, it has spilled over into the work I did for you.

“The start to this year has been particularly difficult in a personal sense for me and I have always tried to bottle it up to ensure I keep personal very separate to work and I regret that the situation has got the better of me and led me down the path of seriously poor decision making with respect to my work.

“While spending time with my family I have also been seeking help and trying to recoup and pick up the pieces.

“You have been the sixth boss I have worked for in my time in parliament and I maintain you have been the best.

“Not only are you the first Minister I have worked for that actually takes a deep and abiding interest in the portfolios you hold, but you genuinely care how you can make the nation a better place to live, it’s not just words.

“Again, I am genuinely sorry for my actions which are completely out of character for me and the result of clouded and poor decision making.

“I am sorry to you and Fiona for the position I have forced you into. I have let you down considerably and for that and I feel terrible. I will accept the outcome of your considerations.

“I wish you good luck for the gruelling campaign ahead and all the best of luck for what I know will be a very long, successful and meaningful career in the Ministry ahead, in particular the Office of the Minister for Defence!

“Yours Sincerely, Bruce.”

In response, Senator Reynolds wrote back on April 5, saying she still planned to sack him.

“Dear Bruce, I have considered your actions and responses including the additional responses provided today by telephone

“However I do remain of the view that your actions contributed to serious breaches of the Ministerial Statement of Standards which constitutes serious misconduct.

“This letter is formal notification that your employment will be terminated effective today.”

Read related topics:Brittany Higgins & Bruce Lehrmann Trial

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