21 December 2022

Board of Inquiry announced into 'serious' accusations made over handling of Parliament alleged rape case

| Claire Fenwicke
Shane Rattenbury

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said the Board of Inquiry will not be about revisiting the Lehrmann trial, any evidence in the trial or the outcome of the trial. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The roles of several players involved in the R v Lehrmann case will be examined by a Board of Inquiry to ensure the Territory’s framework for progressing criminal investigations and prosecutions is “robust, fair and respects the rights” of those involved.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said it followed several complaints and allegations in relation to the trial of Bruce Lehrmann.

“This was a high-profile trial. The allegations made in recent weeks are serious,” Mr Barr said.

“An independent review of the roles played by the criminal justice agencies involved is the most appropriate response.”

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The ACT Government will establish the Board of Inquiry to consider whether the various criminal justice entities involved undertook their roles with “appropriate rigour, impartiality, and independence”.

Specific elements will include:

  • the engagement between the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and ACT Policing regarding the prospect of charges being laid
  • the decision to proceed to trial and the decision not to proceed to a retrial
  • aspects of the conduct of police investigators and the DPP
  • whether the support provided by the Victims of Crime Commissioner to the complainant aligned with the relevant statutory framework
  • the legal framework in the ACT for addressing juror misconduct.

The Inquiry will be able to hold public and private hearings, issue search warrants, compel the production of documents, compel the attendance of witnesses and take their evidence on oath.

ACT Policing, the DPP and the Victims of Crime Commissioner have all indicated they intend to cooperate with the Inquiry.

The ACT Government will determine the terms of reference and key timeframes next month once a legal expert has been chosen to conduct the Inquiry.

It is expected the Inquiry will report to the Chief Minister in the first half of 2023.

“I want to make clear that this Inquiry is not about revisiting the trial, any evidence in the trial or the outcome of the trial,” Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said.

“It is expected that the Inquiry will have regard to investigations which other bodies may be conducting regarding these matters.

“I would ask everyone to respect the privacy of individuals who will be involved in this Inquiry.”

Mr Rattenbury said while the Inquiry would focus on ACT criminal justice agencies and the justice system, he acknowledged this could be triggering for people with lived experience of sexual violence.

“There are a range of services available for people experiencing difficulties, and we encourage anyone who needs support to reach out to those organisations,” he said.

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The Board of Inquiry announcement comes after a letter from DPP Shane Drumgold SC to ACT Policing Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan was released under Freedom of Information legislation.

In the letter, Mr Drumgold raised “serious concerns” over what he perceived as “clear investigator interference in the criminal justice process”.

It was revealed earlier this month that ACT Policing’s handling of the investigation had already been referred to the Australian Commission of Law Enforcement Integrity in November.

The likelihood of an inquiry has been growing in recent days after the ACT Cabinet was briefed on the situation last week.

More to come.

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