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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, has resigned in the wake of an independent inquiry’s sweeping criticisms of his conduct in the prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann.

The report from the inquiry by Walter Sofronoff, a former Queensland judge, commissioned by the ACT government, accuses Drumgold of serious misconduct and dishonesty.

Sofronoff says: “It became clear to me that, at times, Mr Drumgold lost objectivity and did not act with fairness and detachment as was required by his role”.

Lehrmann, at the time a Liberal staffer, was accused of raping his then colleague Brittany Higgins in a ministerial office in 2019. He has consistently denied the allegation. A trial was aborted after misconduct by a juror. A plan for a second trial was then abandoned in light of Higgins’ mental health.

The ACT Attorney-General, Shane Rattenbury, said in a Sunday statement that on Thursday he and Drumgold discussed the report. “In light of the commentary in the report, Mr Drumgold and I agreed that his position as Director of Public Prosecutions was no longer tenable.

“On Friday, Mr Drumgold sent a letter advising me that he would be vacating his position as ACT Director of Public Prosecutions.”

The Sofronoff report, while not yet released (although sent by the inquiry on an embargoed basis to certain media outlets), has been extensively reported.

Drumgold has been provided with the report. The ACT government will make a detailed statement in response to it early this week.

Sofronoff is strongly critical of Drumgold’s intense efforts to keep from Lehrmann’s defence team police material it was entitled to have.

Drumgold “kept the defence in the dark about steps he was taking to deny them the documents,” Sofronoff says.

He added: “Criminal litigation is not a poker game in which a prosecutor can hide the cards.”

Sofronoff says had the defence not managed to obtain the police documents “despite the improper obstruction they faced, and had the documents come to light after a conviction, in my opinion, the conviction would have been set aside on the ground of a miscarriage of justice”.

The report says during his efforts to prevent disclosure, Drumgold sidelined a more senior member of his staff who had raised a query and “procured a youngster to do the job”.

He required “his fledging staff member, newly admitted”, to unknowingly swear an affidavit that failed to comply with the rules.

Sofronoff found Drumgold had lied to the ACT Chief Justice Lucy McCallum, who was conducting the trial, over what he had said to journalist Lisa Wilkinson about the speech she subsequently made when she won a Logie for her interview with Higgins.

Drumgold claimed on the basis of notes said to have been made at the time that Wilkinson was given a warning before the speech. Wilkinson denied this and it came out during the inquiry that Drumgold had later added to the notes. McCallum delayed the trial because of the Wilkinson speech.

“I find that Mr Drumgold knowingly lied to the chief justice,” Sofronoff says.

“I do not accept that Mr Drumgold’s misstatements about the nature of the note were a mere mistake that he made,” he says.

“On any version of the conversation, Mr Drumgold’s response to Ms Wilkinson was wholly inadequate.”

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Shane Drumgold resigns after sweeping criticisms of his conduct in the Lehrmann case –