Assault inquiry set aside
An inquiry into who in the Prime Minister's Office knew about Brittany Higgins’ allegations of rape has been suspended.
For the second time, the inquiry into who knew what and when within the Prime Minister's office about the alleged rape of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has been suspended.
The head of the Department Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, has put his investigation on hold due to concerns raised by the ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions that it may “prejudice criminal proceedings now on foot”.
A 26-year-old man has been charged over the alleged assault.
“On the basis of legal advice received on 27 August 2021, I have suspended my inquiry until the conclusion of the criminal trial,” Mr Gaetjens said in a statement.
“This is to ensure that the inquiry can have no adverse impact on the criminal prosecution.
“The action I have taken is strictly in response to the legal advice I have received, and does not relate to any of the content of the inquiry. No inferences in relation to that content can be drawn from the legal advice nor my decision to suspend the inquiry.”
The inquiry is one of several to be launched in the wake of Ms Higgins public allegation that she had been raped by a male colleague inside a minister's office at Parliament House in 2019.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has insisted that he first learned of the allegation when the story broke, but there are strong claims that members of his staff became aware long before that.
Mr Morrison called on Mr Gaetjens to find out which staff in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) knew about the allegation, when they became aware and what they were told.
The man accused of raping Ms Higgins is due to front the ACT Magistrates Court next month, facing “one charge of sexual intercourse without consent”, according to ACT Police.
Ms Higgins has consented to be named as the complainant.
The suspension has raised questions about whether the inquiry before the next federal election, which should be held by May next year.