‘Serious misconduct’: Why Bruce Lehrmann was sacked by defence minister Linda Reynolds

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Bruce Lehrmann has revealed he was sacked by defence minister Linda Reynolds for “serious misconduct” involving security breaches.

Samantha Maiden

@samanthamaiden

5 min read

Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann has revealed he was sacked by then-defence minister Linda Reynolds for “serious misconduct” over security breaches, including leaving a top secret document unsecured.

Mr Lehrmann has revealed the reasons why he was sacked by Senator Reynolds just days after the alleged rape in the office, but said he never knew at the time he had been accused by Ms Higgins. Nor did he consider his conduct over security breaches serious.

In fact, he told the Federal Court he never heard a whisper about the allegation until Ms Higgins went public with her story two years later.

And while Ms Reynolds has previously given evidence in the ACT Supreme Court that she was aware at the time of the termination that something may have occurred in the office between Ms Higgins and Mr Lehrmann, it was not the stated reason for his dismissal.

Instead it referred to the “security breach” of entering the office overnight with Ms Higgins, and a separate incident where he left a top secret document on a desk.

Mr Lehrmann said that he did not regard the incident as serious.

During the criminal trial, it emerged that Mr Lehrmann wrote to Ms Reynolds admitting he was “feeling embarrassed, ashamed and deeply remorseful” after she discovered his late night visit to Parliament House with Ms Higgins in 2019.

Mr Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without her consent and being reckless to her consent, denied any sexual activity took place, and was never convicted. He maintains his innocence.

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

Mr Lehrmann was in trouble not just over the late night visit 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 visit, in which Ms Reynolds asked him to show cause as to why she shouldn’t terminate him.

On Friday April 5, 2019, Mr Lehrmann replied that 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.”

The court has heard that Ms 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,’’ Ms 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.

“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.

“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.

In the Federal Court on Thursday, Mr Lehrmann said that he did not regard it as serious misconduct.

“Now you gave evidence to His Honour before that when Mr Whybrow (Mr Lehrmann’s barrister) was asking you questions, that you had left the document on the desk of the DLO (Departmental Liaison Officer) while you’d gone to make a cup of coffee. You recollect giving that evidence? Was that truthful evidence?’ Dr Matt Collins KC asked, representing Channel Ten.

“Let me see if I’ve got this right. You had gone into the DLOs office in the ministerial suite, correct? Yes. You had a top secret classified document in your hand. A document that you knew could not be left unattended in an unsecured office? You posited the letter on the desk of the Home Affairs DLO. And is your evidence to His Honour that you then went and made yourself a cup of coffee?”

Dr Collins then asked if it was possible he left a top secret document on a desk while there were others present in the office.

“Yes,’’ Mr Lehrmann replied.

Dr Collins asked Mr Lehrmann if he regarded it as a serious incident. Mr Lehrmann said he did not.

“You said to His Honour yesterday, I believe, there was a very brief minor incident about security. Do you remember giving that evidence?’’ Dr Collins said.

“This wasn’t a minor incident about security, was it?”

Mr Lehrmann then replied: “Well, no.”

“Well, why did you choose only yesterday to say it was a very brief, minor incident about security when the true position is it was one of the grounds for your termination for serious misconduct?’’ Dr Collins asked.

“Well, I still do not consider it a major security breach,’’ Mr Lehrmann replied.

“You understand the importance of being completely truthful and accurate in all the answers you give in the witness stand?’’ Dr Collins asked.

“Certainly. And I’m trying,’’ Mr Lehrmann responded.

The trial continues.

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Bruce Lehrmann has revealed he was sacked by defence minister Linda Reynolds for “serious misconduct” involving security breaches. Samantha Maiden. @samanthamaiden. 5 min read. Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann has revealed he was sacked by then-defence minister Linda Reynolds for “serious misconduct” over security breaches, including leaving a top secret document unsecured. Mr Lehrmann has revealed the reasons why he was sacked by Senator Reynolds just days after the alleged rape in the office, but said he never knew at the time he had been accused by Ms Higgins. Nor did he consider his conduct over security breaches serious. In fact, he told the Federal Court he never heard a whisper about the allegation until Ms Higgins went public with her story two years later. And while Ms Reynolds has previously given evidence in the ACT Supreme Court that she was aware at the time of the termination that something may have occurred in the office between Ms Higgins and Mr Lehrmann, it was not the stated reason for his dismissal. Instead it referred to the “security breach” of entering the office overnight with Ms Higgins, and a separate incident where he left a top secret document on a desk. Mr Lehrmann said that he did not regard the incident as serious. During the criminal trial, it emerged that Mr Lehrmann wrote to Ms Reynolds admitting he was “feeling embarrassed, ashamed and deeply remorseful” after she discovered his late night visit to Parliament House with Ms Higgins in 2019. Mr Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without her consent and being reckless to her consent, denied any sexual activity took place, and was never convicted. He maintains his innocence. The ACT Supreme Court heard that after the late night visit was reported to Ms Reynolds’ office, it was initially treated as a security incident. Mr Lehrmann was in trouble not just over the late night visit 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 visit, in which Ms Reynolds asked him to show cause as to why she shouldn’t terminate him. On Friday April 5, 2019, Mr Lehrmann replied that 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.” The court has heard that Ms 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,’’ Ms 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. “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. “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. In the Federal Court on Thursday, Mr Lehrmann said that he did not regard it as serious misconduct. “Now you gave evidence to His Honour before that when Mr Whybrow (Mr Lehrmann’s barrister) was asking you questions, that you had left the document on the desk of the DLO (Departmental Liaison Officer) while you’d gone to make a cup of coffee. You recollect giving that evidence? Was that truthful evidence?’ Dr Matt Collins KC asked, representing Channel Ten. “Let me see if I’ve got this right. You had gone into the DLOs office in the ministerial suite, correct? Yes. You had a top secret classified document in your hand. A document that you knew could not be left unattended in an unsecured office? You posited the letter on the desk of the Home Affairs DLO. And is your evidence to His Honour that you then went and made yourself a cup of coffee?” Dr Collins then asked if it was possible he left a top secret document on a desk while there were others present in the office. “Yes,’’ Mr Lehrmann replied. Dr Collins asked Mr Lehrmann if he regarded it as a serious incident. Mr Lehrmann said he did not. “You said to His Honour yesterday, I believe, there was a very brief minor incident about security. Do you remember giving that evidence?’’ Dr Collins said. “This wasn’t a minor incident about security, was it?” Mr Lehrmann then replied: “Well, no.” “Well, why did you choose only yesterday to say it was a very brief, minor incident about security when the true position is it was one of the grounds for your termination for serious misconduct?’’ Dr Collins asked. “Well, I still do not consider it a major security breach,’’ Mr Lehrmann replied. “You understand the importance of being completely truthful and accurate in all the answers you give in the witness stand?’’ Dr Collins asked. “Certainly. And I’m trying,’’ Mr Lehrmann responded. The trial continues.