A lot has been said about the intense media coverage surrounding Brittany Higgins since she made allegations in 2021, that she was sexually assaulted in Parliament House in 2019.
Man fights to redeem himself
And the media scrutiny is not over yet, with her accused, Bruce Lehrmann having filed civil proceedings for defamation against media organisations and reporters who acted as the judges, jurors and executioners of the Liberal staffer without having an ounce of knowledge let alone understanding of the admissible evidence available in the case.
Drawn and quartered by the mainstream media and the PM
As is customary with the mainstream media, people like Lisa Wilkinson, ‘Jonesy and Amanda’ from a breakfast radio show and Samantha Maiden demonstrated once again they are little less than opportunists who feel they are above the law and can flout directions from the judiciary – by voicing their support for Brittany Higgins despite in the lead up to Mr Lehrmann’s trial despite expressly being told not to do so; thereby causing the trial to be vacated and adjourned for months.
Even our then Prime Minister Scott Morrison hid under the protection of Parliamentary Privilege to ‘apologise’ to the complainant for what he presumed she had gone through.
In the result, Ms Higgins who was crucified under cross-examination in court (something largely ignored by the mainstream media), with inconsistencies and implausibilities throughout her testimony– following which the prosecution of Mr Lehrmann was discontinued, ostensibly for the ‘Ms Higgins’ protection’.
The fact of the matter was that anyone who actually read the accuser’a cross examination could reasonably form the opinion the actual reason the matter was not retried was that the trial made clear her claims did not make sense, and were at times inconsistent in material respects with the footage produced from what is perhaps the nation’s most surveilled building, as well as eye witnesses to the events, and her words and conduct after the events were also highly questionable. But again, the mainstream media has almost entirely ignored this, and a man’s life has been destroyed.
No verdict despite adverse publicity
In the face of relentless attacks on the alleged perpetrator, including assumptions by the person in the highest office of our land, many find it telling he was not convicted by a jury that was, with little doubt, privy to the relentless attacks and pressure to convict, and at least one of whom committed the offence of contempt of court (the ACT does not , unlike NSW, have the offence of misconduct as a juror) by brazenly bringing a report about sexual offences into the jury deliberation room, later to be discovered by a Sheriffs officer, against the trial judge’s multiple explicit directions not to consider material other than the evidence admitted in court.
No member of the media or juror has been criminally prosecuted over what clearly amounted to criminal offences.
Clearly, it is only for political and popularity reasons that Lisa Wilkinson, Amanda Keller, Brendan Jones and Samantha Maiden have not been prosecuted for the crime of contempt of court – as any other citizen would and should be in comparable circumstances. There is ample evidence to prosecute these people.
Ms Higgins has also not been prosecuted for making a false accusation. Rather, there are reports this ‘darling of the #metoo movement in Australia’ has been paid for media appearances, as well as by taxpayers over a civil claim she commenced.
There are many victims of sexual offences and they should be protected, but in our view the evidence does not establish that Brittany Higgins is one of them.
Complainant under attack
There is no justification for threatening a person who has made a sexual assault complaint, whether or not the claims are without substance.
But a man has now been charged with a criminal offence for allegedly making death threats against the Australian darling of the #metoomovement – who has made millions of dollars from media appearances and a reported settlement from the New South Wales government, her fiance David Sharaz, and their dog Kingston, via social media platforms.
In recent days, New South Wales police have confirmed they’ve charged David William Wonnocott, who was arrested by counter-terrorism detectives from Tweed Heads, in Northern New South Wales.
He has been charged with using a carriage service to make a threat to kill and using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend.
Using a carriage service to harass or menace
Using a carriage service to harass or menace is an offence in contravention of section 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code,which carries a maximum penalty of 3 years in prison.
To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- The accused person used a carriage service, and
- Did so in a way that a reasonable person would regard as menacing, harassing or offensive
Using a Carriage Service to Make a Death Threat
Using a Carriage Service to Make a Death Threat is a crime under Section 474.15(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- The accused person used a carriage service and that use included a threat of death to another person, and
- The accused person intended the other person to fear that the threat would be carried out against them or another person
The prosecution does not need to prove that the other person actually feared the threat would be carried out.
A ‘carriage service’ is defined as ‘a service for carrying communications – it includes telephone calls, text messages and internet transmissions, such as emails and the use of social media sites.
A history of online harassment
While police have not released a timeline or timeframe of the alleged threats that relate to Brittany Higgins and her partner, it’s reported that in October 2021, the same man was arrested after threatening to kill hosts and participants on the ABC Television’s Q&A Programme over their support of the LGBT community.
At the time, Mr Wonnocott pleaded guilty to using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend. The court heard that he told police he did not agree with LGBT and of the programme he made threats about: “I want them to stop spruiking this fucking community, the LGBT whatever fucking they are.
He was sentenced to nine months in jail with three months non-parole. However, the sentence was immediately appealed and Mr Wonnocott was granted appeal bail on the condition he obtained a mental health plan and did not access social media.
49 messages across social media platforms
In the case of Brittany Higgins and her partner, police allege they found 49 messages sent by Wonnocott from multiple social media accounts which were threatening or offensive in nature.
While in custody, detectives issued Mr Wonnocott with a firearms ban. He was granted strict conditional bail and is due back in the Tweed Heads court at the end of May.
‘A firearms ban’ is another way of saying ‘suspension’ or ‘temporary cessation’ of a firearms’ licence. The Police Commissioner can apply for an order whether or not someone already has a firearm licence.
The primary piece of legislation that governs firearms in our state is the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW).
Under the act, authorities have a degree of discretion with regard to suspension and firearms licence, firearms permit or prohibited weapon permit may be suspended for any reason for which the licence or permit may be revoked. Police have the power to seize any prohibited weapons owned by or in the possession of a person who has been served with a suspension notice.
Under the law, a firearms licence or prohibited weapon permit must be suspended if a person is charged with a domestic violence offence or if there is reasonable cause to suspect a person may make a threat or commit an domestic violence offence, as outlined in the defintions and explanations within the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007.
Similarly, a firearms licence or prohibited weapon permit is automatically suspended if the holder becomes subject to an Interim Apprehended Violence Order. Oncethe suspension is in place, a person must not possess or use firearms/prohibited weapons until the term has expired.