Security guards "unlocked office" for alleged Parliament assault
The former director of security operations at Parliament House quit his job in the wake of the "tragic" alleged sexual assault of Brittany Higgins after raising concerns over how the matter was dealt with.
According to News.com.au, Peter Butler, a former sworn New South Wales Special Constable has raised concerns over the March 23, 2019 incident for years.
A secret parliamentary inquiry into the security at Parliament House has spent months trying to figure out how the alleged sexual assault was dealt with, with former and current security guards providing confidential submissions.
Security officers who are aware of the circumstances on the night of the alleged sexual attack have told news.com.au that they checked on Ms Higgins’ welfare in the early morning of March 23, 2019 for two reasons.
They say the first reason is that on the night the incident occurred, the male staffer took an intoxicated Ms Higgins to an office which he did not have a key for.
A whistleblower claims that security officers from the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) not only signed the two in without security passes but opened the door to then-Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynold's office for the male staffer.
Due to opening the office for him, it was their duty of care to ensure the office was properly secured after they had left.
But CCTV footage showed the male staffer leaving with no sign of the woman.
“Two went in, but only one came out,’’ a former security officer told news.com.au.
The second reason security returned to Senator Reynolds' office is to determine what had happened to the woman who had been brought in "falling down drunk" and barely able to sign her own name.
They found Ms Higgins disorientated and half-naked in the Defence Minister’s office, where she had been left by the male staffer who had brought her there.
Despite what they came across, the DPS did not think a sexual crime had been committed.
The next morning there was a dispute on whether the office should be cleaned before people returned to work on Monday.
The disagreement caused friction between DPS bureaucrats and those who raised concerns over whether this was the correct course of action.
Parliament’s former security director Mr Butler told news.com.au that he could not comment on any of the specifics outlined but he was happy to cooperate with any future inquiries.
“In my previous role as the Director Security Operations for DPS at the time of this tragic incident, I provided assistance to police undertaking certain inquiries,” he said.
“As this is an ongoing matter I may be called upon to provide further assistance to the authorities so it would be inappropriate for me to comment further and potentially compromise any potential inquiries or investigation.”
“Also as an ongoing Commonwealth Public Servant I am unable to make any comments on this matter to the media.”
It is the divisions within DPS over the decision to call in cleaners that led to complaints being made to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the subsequent investigation into whether a potential crime scene had been tampered with by cleaners.
The DPS says the AFP investigation found that because it did not know at the time it was a potential sexual assault that no “criminality” was involved in the clean.
“The AFP has advised DPS that it had conducted enquiries into the action of DPS staff in the initial handling of the incident, including whether there was any criminality identified, such as attempts to conceal or interfere with a suspected crime scene,’’ the DPS spokesman said.
“The AFP advised that there were no disclosures of sexual assault made by the complainant on the day of the incident and therefore actions taken by them (DPS) were not in response with a suspected crime”.
Join our community of over 400,000-plus members today and get the latest Over60 news, offers and articles.
Get all the latest Over60 news, offers and articles.