ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC was expected to return to his position today (13 June), but he has requested an extension of his leave period to the end of June.
Mr Drumgold took temporary leave last month, shortly after giving evidence to the Board of Inquiry into the ACT criminal justice system’s handling of the Bruce Lehrmann case.
Mr Drumgold had been expected to return to the inquiry to conclude cross-examination of his evidence, but it was announced on 31 May that he would not be asked to appear at further hearings.
Anthony Williamson SC was appointed Acting Director of Public Prosecutions on 17 May for a period of four weeks. Mr Williamson will now continue in the role until 30 June.
“The director did seek an extension of his leave period and the government has granted that extension and appointed Anthony Williamson, who is the acting director, to continue up until 30 June,” ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury told ABC Radio this morning.
Asked whether he had spoken to Mr Drumgold personally about him returning to the role or if there is likely to be a “change at the top”, Mr Rattenbury said he had not had that conversation.
“Look, that’s for Mr Drumgold to consider. I think it’s fair to let him take his period of leave at this point, and when he returns, we’ll contemplate those questions if they’re on the table at all at that time.”
Mr Rattenbury said he did not feel it was appropriate to disclose the nature of the leave Mr Drumgold has taken and what it was specifically related to.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to go into the details of that. I think it’s fair for Mr Drumgold to take leave and for that to be a personal matter for him.”
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 has explored the extent of the breakdown in the professional relationship between the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and ACT Policing officers involved in the Lehrmann case, touching on the wider context of handling sexual assault investigations in the ACT.
They were also asked about the relationship between Ms Higgins and the police and the involvement of Ms Yates as a liaison between the two parties.
The inquiry has heard multiple witnesses explain their interpretation of key events in the case, including the DPP’s attempt to prevent the disclosure of the ‘Moller Report’, a set of AFP documents that raised Detective Superintendent Scott Moller’s concerns about inconsistencies in Ms Higgins’ evidence. Witnesses have also spoken on the unauthorised disclosure of confidential information concerning Ms Higgins in the brief of evidence mistakenly served to Mr Korn, including her counselling notes and other unredacted details.
Inquiry chair Walter Sofronoff KC is expected to deliver a copy of its draft recommendations by 30 June. Mr Sofronoff said that, after this, the inquiry will aim to deliver the report “as soon as possible” and, in any case, before the deadline of 31 July.
Information about the inquiry, including tendered exhibits and recordings of the hearings, can be found on the Board of Inquiry website.