Former prime minister Scott Morrison was accused of jeopardising an accused rapist's right to a fair trial with an "egregious" speech, during which he apologised to the alleged victim for "terrible things" that had occurred in Parliament House.
Criticism directed at Mr Morrison during the dying days of his prime ministership can now be revealed, after Chief Justice Lucy McCallum lifted an order that had banned reporting of her reasons for refusing to block Bruce Lehrmann's rape trial.
The fate of former Liberal Party staffer Lehrmann, 27, currently rests with an ACT Supreme Court jury, which has now been deliberating for more than a week.
He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of engaging in sexual intercourse without consent, denying allegations he raped Brittany Higgins on a couch at Parliament House in March 2019.
The offence is alleged to have occurred in the ministerial office of senator Linda Reynolds, for whom the pair were staffers at the time, after "a drunken night out".
Lehrmann sought unsuccessfully to have his case halted in April, applying for a permanent stay of proceedings by arguing he could not possibly receive a fair trial.
Chief Justice McCallum dismissed his application, revealing it was based on "damaging publicity" but imposing a non-publication order over further information.
She lifted that order late on Wednesday, allowing media to report that a speech given by Mr Morrison on February 8 formed a key plank of the failed bid to prevent the case ever reaching trial.
Mr Morrison spoke in the House of Representatives that day, apologising to people who had experienced harassment, sexual assault or bullying while working in Parliament.
Chief Justice McCallum said the then-prime minister had specifically addressed Ms Higgins, who had watched the speech from the parliament's public gallery.
"I say sorry to Ms Higgins for the terrible things that took place here," Mr Morrison said during the speech.
"The place that should have been a place of safety and contribution turned out to be a nightmare. But I am sorry for far more than that.
"I'm sorry for all those who came before Ms Higgins and endured the same. But she had the courage to stand, and so here we are."
In April, weeks before Mr Morrison's Coalition government lost the federal election, Lehrmann's now former legal team took aim at the widely reported apology.
Barrister David Campbell SC, who represented Lehrmann at the time, argued the speech had unduly boosted the credibility of Ms Higgins in a word-on-word case.
"It was submitted that the prime minister's apology was particularly egregious as it imputed [Lehrmann] with guilt of the offence or at least implicitly assumed the truthfulness of the complaint," Chief Justice McCallum said in a previously redacted judgement.
"[Lehrmann] submitted that the effect has been to elevate [Ms Higgins] to a status she should not have for the purpose of [his] trial.
"He submitted that the case is unique because [Ms Higgins] 'walks into court with an aura about her' and that the problem this creates is incurable."
Chief Justice McCallum disagreed, finding it remained possible to empanel an impartial jury and direct its members in a way that would ameliorate any prejudice.
She ultimately empanelled a jury of 10 women and six men on October 4, when Lehrmann went on trial after denying any sexual activity with Ms Higgins.
Four members of the jury were balloted off at the conclusion of evidence and submissions, leaving the eight women and four men who continue to deliberate.
MORE COVERAGE OF THE TRIAL:
- 'Working extremely hard': Week after retiring, parliament rape trial jury still deliberating
- Deadlocked parliament rape trial jury directed to keep deliberating
- 'No pressure': Judge tells parliament rape trial jury to 'relax'
- 'Extremely important' warnings given to jury as alleged parliament rapist waits for verdict
- Judge reminds jury she's 'here to help' as parliament rape trial deliberations continue
- Parliament rape trial jury retires to deliberate on '$325k question'
- 'Prepared to say anything': Defence claims Higgins 'doesn't know what happened'
- Higgins 'right to be scared' of 'strong political forces': prosecutor
- Senator accused of trying to 'coach' defence barrister's cross-examination of Higgins
- 'Political suicide': Senator denies pretending not to know about alleged rape
- 'Nothing was fine after what you did': Higgins confronts alleged rapist, denies being 'monster'
- Lehrmann 'in a hurry to get out' after alleged rape: parliament security
- 'My world has been rocked': Lehrmann tells police of 'Bruce the rapist' impersonator
- 'Broken, shattered person': Light in Higgins 'turned off' after alleged rape
- 'Bruce got quite handsy': What Higgins told parliament police after alleged rape
- Higgins 'unavailable' to continue cross-examination in rape trial, jury told
- Higgins had planned book before being 'blown away' by $325k offer, court hears
- 'So incorrect': Higgins hits back at 'deeply insulting' cross-examination
- 'I wanted her out': Higgins denies attempt to hide evidence, admits 'scrubbing' phone
- Higgins secretly recorded 'weirdest phone call' with Cash after quitting
- 'It may sound ridiculous': Higgins admits 'mistake' about 'weird anchor' dress
- Meeting with minister at site of alleged rape felt like 'scare tactic': Higgins
- 'Like this weird anchor': Higgins kept dress under bed while weighing up action
- Higgins 'rebuffed kiss' from accused rapist before allegedly being 'trapped'
- Public 'sold a pup' with 'unstoppable snowball' story of alleged Higgins rape