31 July 2023

DPP Shane Drumgold not required to return to Board of Inquiry despite not completing cross-examination

| Lizzie Waymouth
Shane Drumgold walaking to the Board of Inquiry

ACT DPP Shane Drumgold SC arriving at the Board of Inquiry on 8 May. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC will not be required to return to the Board of Inquiry into the ACT criminal justice system’s handling of the Bruce Lehrmann case.

On 12 May, the last day Mr Drumgold gave evidence, inquiry chair Walter Sofronoff KC said, “We would resume Mr Drumgold’s evidence at a convenient point”. However, the inquiry’s executive director announced on Wednesday (31 May) afternoon that he would not be required to appear at further public hearings.

READ ALSO Acting Director of Public Prosecutions appointed after Shane Drumgold takes leave

Shortly after he gave evidence to the inquiry, Mr Drumgold took temporary leave from his position for four weeks. Anthony Williamson SC was appointed Acting Director of Public Prosecutions on 17 May and will hold the position until 13 June. It is understood that Mr Drumgold has not stepped down from the role.

Mr Drumgold had been under intense scrutiny when he appeared in the witness box earlier this month in the first module of the inquiry. He spoke of a “skills deficit” and a lack of objectivity among ACT Policing officers involved in the Lehrmann matter and potential “political interference” at play during the trial.

In later hearings, the DPP’s own objectivity was called into question, with defence counsel Steven Whybrow SC putting that it was Mr Drumgold who was “hostile” to the police. Detective Superintendent Scott Moller also told the inquiry that his dealings with the DPP left him “concerned for the independence and integrity of the investigation”.

READ ALSO DPP had ‘already decided’ to progress Lehrmann case before reviewing evidence, Moller told inquiry

The Board of Inquiry is investigating the conduct of the ACT’s criminal justice system 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.

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 Lehrmann 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 today (1 June) and tomorrow (2 June), when ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates and Mr Lehrmann’s former barrister John Korn are expected to give evidence.

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