Australia’s top cop has condemned the decision to clean up the federal parliamentary suite where Brittany Higgins claims she was raped by fellow political activist Bruce Lehrman.
Former AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin wrote to the Parliamentary Services Department complaining that it was ‘unacceptable’ not to inform the police that the suite had been cleared.
‘The inclusion of AFP in the initial response to incidents can result in earlier notification of an alleged criminal offence, more appropriate management of the welfare of alleged victims and better scene management,’ Mr Colvin wrote.
‘It is still unclear why AFP was not notified at the time of the incident. And I claim that is unacceptable.’
Australia’s top cop has condemned the decision to clean up the federal parliamentary suite where Brittany Higgins claims she was raped by fellow political activist Bruce Lehrman. Ms Higgins walking into Parliament House on CCTV
Former AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin (above) complained to the Parliamentary Services Department that it was ‘unacceptable’ not to inform police that Senator Linda Reynolds’ office had been cleared.
According to the news website, the letter, obtained by news.com.au, was provided to an investigation led by former Inspector-General of Intelligence Vivienne Thom.
It has been revealed the former directory security at Parliament House, Peter Butler, told police he disagreed with the decision to clear the suite and believed an incident report he had written had been altered.
The emergence of Mr. Colvin’s letter follows the reemergence of a cleaner court testimony that contradicted persistent rumors that Senator Linda Reynolds’ office had been steam-cleaned as part of a cover-up.
Mr Lehrman has always denied raping Ms Higgins and a charge of having sex without consent was dropped after his trial was thrown out due to jury misconduct.
Carlos Ramos was asked to clean Senator Reynolds’ office on March 23, 2019, after parliamentary security staff officers alerted a Finance Department official that two staff members found Ms. Higgins sleeping on the couch.
Former Parliament House directory security, Peter Butler, told police he disagreed with the decision to clear the suite (above) and believed an incident report he had written had been altered.
Ms Higgins did not publicly allege an assault until much later and an investigation by Ms Thom and the AFP found there was no reason to suspect one at the time.
Late-night drinking in parliamentary offices, however, is not uncommon in Canberra and special cleaning is sometimes ordered to ensure MPs do not reach any party remnants.
When Mr. Ramos arrived to clean, expecting two hours or more of work, he found the room so tidy that he called his boss who then reached out to security staff to make sure they had the right room.
‘In my opinion this look is normal cleanliness,’ Ramos, whose first language is Spanish, told the ACT Supreme Court he told his supervisor.
Ramos testified on October 11 last year that he had already spent 30 minutes cleaning the clean room regularly, a fact that Australian newspaper columnist Janet Albrechtsen ignored by the media.
Her testimony was lost among the many documents that eventually became available when a suppression order was lifted.
Brittany Higgins (pictured) was allegedly raped in then Defense Minister Linda Reynolds’ office at Parliament House in 2019.
The order was issued until Ms Higgins had completed her cross-examination, which was fragmented due to mental health breaks.
Asked by prosecutor Shane Drumgold if he cleaned the couch where Higgins allegedly raped her, Ramos said he wiped it with a leather cleaning product.
‘You wiped it (the couch) with a chemical on a cloth?’ asked Drumgold.
Ramos: ‘Yes, yes.’
During cross-examination, Ramos told defense barrister Katrina Musgrove that: ‘It was completely routine cleaning.’
Her testimony refutes claims that the couch in Ms. Reynolds’ office was thoroughly cleaned within hours of the alleged sexual assault.
The Steam Clean claim suggests that the scene may have been ‘interfered’ with articles published that broke the story and repeated numerous times.
A court heard it is not unusual for ministers to clean out offices if staff have been drinking the night before so they don’t end up in a mess (pictured, Senator Linda Reynolds).
Albrechtsen noted that the claim came from a diary note by Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner of National Security Leanne Close, about a conversation she had with AFP Assistant Commissioner Lesa Gale.
The note states that Gale told him that ‘the office staff had steam cleaned the lounge’.
The claim was repeated a few months later in an anonymous letter addressed to the late Senator Kimberling Kitching.
In his cross-examination, Mr Ramos was also asked if he needed to clean the bathroom where Ms Higgins said she had vomited.
‘Not really… like the bathroom hasn’t been used recently.’
He said no towels appeared to have been used, the toilet was not dirty and there was no smell.
‘Didn’t the toilet seat need to be cleaned?’ Musgrove asked.
‘No,’ he replied.
CCTV footage shows Ms Higgins walking past Parliament House security on the night she alleged she was raped in Ms Reynolds’ parliamentary office. Mr Lehrman has always denied the allegations
The ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold, who handled Higgins’ case, is on leave until August 30. Anthony Williamson SC plays the role.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is expected to deliver a report this month following an independent inquiry into how the justice system handled Mr Lehrman’s criminal trial.
The independent inquiry was led by former Queensland Supreme Court Justice Walter Sofronoff.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Mr. Lehrman over concerns about the impact of the second trial on Ms. Higgins’ mental health after the first trial was suspended.