18 May 2023

Acting Director of Public Prosecutions appointed after Shane Drumgold takes leave

| Lizzie Waymouth
man in sunglasses being filmed by news camera

Shane Drumgold SC arriving on the first day of hearings for the Board of Inquiry, accompanied by his lawyer Mark Tedeschi KC. Photo: Albert McKnight.

The ACT Government has appointed Anthony Williamson SC as the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions as the inquiry into the ACT justice system’s handling of the Bruce Lehrmann trial continues.

Mr Williamson, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, was appointed yesterday (17 May) and will hold the position until 13 June. It is understood that Mr Drumgold has not stepped down from the role but has taken leave.

Mr Drumgold was under intense scrutiny last week at the Board of Inquiry, during which he claimed he suspected “political interference” at play in the Lehrmann trial and accused the police of holding “passionately held” views of Mr Lehrmann’s innocence.

“The government’s been advised that [Mr Drumgold’s] on leave for four weeks, which is also why we’ve needed to make an appointment of somebody to fill that role during that period,” ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury told ABC Radio this morning.

“He sought leave. It came from him as a request.

“The deputy director has been appointed and he’s a very experienced prosecutor. He’s well-known in the office. He’s got all the suitable qualifications to fill this role. It’s business as usual.”

READ ALSO DPP backtracks on claims of ‘political interference’ but says police had a ‘skills deficit’ in handling Lehrmann case

The Board of Inquiry is investigating how the ACT’s criminal justice arms acted during the trial of Bruce Lehrmann, who pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual intercourse without consent.

He was accused of raping Brittany Higgins in Parliament House on 23 March 2019.

The trial heard from a range of witnesses and interviews, including from then-Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, security guards, public servants and police, Mr Lehrmann, as well as several days of testimony from Ms Higgins herself. However, it ultimately ended in a mistrial and the jury was discharged because one juror brought forbidden information into the jury room.

No findings have been made against Mr Lehrmann and he has maintained his innocence.

An inquiry into the Territory’s criminal justice system and its handling of the trial was launched after a letter from Mr Drumgold to ACT Policing Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan was released under Freedom of Information legislation.

The inquiry will continue next week when police are expected to give evidence.

More to come.

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