15 April 2024

Attorney-General to release notes from sexual assault case discontinuation rate meeting with Acting DPP

| Claire Fenwicke
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Anthony Williamson

Anthony Williamson SC had been the ACT’s Acting Director of Public Prosecutions at the time of the meeting. Photo: ACT Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The ACT Attorney-General has agreed to release notes pertaining to a meeting he had with the former Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, Anthony Williamson SC, about the discontinuation rate of sexual assault cases in Canberra.

Insinuations had been made by a report in The Australian that the meeting resulted in Mr Williamson not receiving the permanent ACT DPP role.

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury has confirmed the pair met on 30 January to discuss concerns raised with him from different sources about the discontinuation rate but has always insisted it was a policy-level discussion and that he wasn’t trying to interfere with the office’s independence.

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During various question times during the Legislative Assembly’s April sitting week, the Canberra Liberals tried to find out more about this meeting, including where the concerns about the discontinuation rate had come from and asking for access to Mr Rattenbury’s notes from the meeting.

Opposition whip Nicole Lawder brought this to a head by producing an out-of-order motion on Thursday (11 April) calling on Mr Rattenbury to release the notes taken at that meeting by “close of business today”, referring to standing order 213A (a).

“We can dance around this all we like, we can use a number of different standing orders, but can we cut to the chase and have Mr Rattenbury fess up, release the notes of the meeting?” she asked.

“The more he squirms around this, the greater the fuss will appear to be about why he won’t be more upfront about his answer.

“I think it’ll be better, quicker, easier and in everyone’s interest if he just came out with those papers.”

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Mr Rattenbury responded that he had no problem with the request: “I am quite comfortable to release the document.”

He noted that the standing order allowed 14 days to respond and that normal freedom of information procedures allowed for the consultation of any third parties referred to in the requested documents.

Given this, Mr Rattenbury felt it was appropriate to take steps to “at least advise” the other parties referred to in his notes that the documents would be released and amended the release to give himself the two weeks.

“I am comfortable to release them. I think they demonstrate the point that I have made which is that I had a policy-level conversation with the [Acting] Director of Public Prosecutions,” he said.

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