5 April 2024

Integrity Commission confirms it is assessing corruption allegations against Walter Sofronoff KC

| Genevieve Jacobs
Walter Sofronoff

Walter Sofronoff KC will face an Integrity Commission inquiry into corruption allegations. Photo: Screenshot.

Corruption allegations against prominent lawyer Walter Sofronoff have been referred to the ACT Integrity Commission (AIC), which is now assessing whether they require investigation.

Mr Sofronoff KC, a former Queensland judge, headed the ACT Board of Inquiry into how the ACT’s judicial system handled the Bruce Lehrmann matter.

His findings were heavily critical of the ACT’s then Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold SC, who subsequently resigned after agreeing with the ACT Attorney-General, Shane Rattenbury, that his position had become untenable.

The AIC said the allegations before it relate to disclosures made by Mr Sofronoff to journalists during the Board of Inquiry into the Criminal Justice System, the release of his report to journalists before the Chief Minister released it, and communications with media that were disclosed in recent litigation in the Supreme Court of the ACT.

READ ALSO UPDATED: Shane Drumgold succeeds on bias claims against Board of Inquiry’s Walter Sofronoff

While a statement from the Commission said their general policy was to neither confirm nor deny the referral or investigation of corruption allegations unless the circumstances are exceptional, it noted, “Here, the issues are especially important, their subject matter has already been widely publicised, and the need for the Integrity Commission to assess and, if necessary, investigate them is apparent”.

“The recent litigation has now concluded. It is accordingly appropriate for this announcement to be made.”

Integrity Commissioner Michael Adams KC noted the “extraordinary and ongoing public discourse about the conduct of the Board of Inquiry” and referred to the recent judgement made in the ACT Supreme Court after Mr Drumgold sued the ACT Government.

Following his resignation from the DPP role, Mr Drumgold launched legal action claiming inquiry chair Mr Sofronoff’s private communications with The Australian journalist Janet Albrechtsen gave rise to apprehended bias.

Mr Drumgold had asked for either the report by Board of Inquiry chair Mr Sofronoff, which was released after the inquiry into the prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann, or the decisions it made in respect to him, to be declared invalid or unlawful.

READ ALSO ‘We have not changed our view’: Former DPP’s position still untenable despite Supreme Court findings

Acting Justice Stephen Kaye supported several of those claims, although the judge rejected others.

Interpretations of Justice Kaye’s findings vary: Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury has reiterated that only some of the Sofronoff inquiry’s findings were invalidated by the finding of bias, while Mr Drumgold believes the findings as a whole were tainted and cannot stand.

An Acting Integrity Commissioner, John McMillan, has been appointed to assess aspects of the matter before the Integrity Commission. The statement said no further public comment will be made while the assessment process is undertaken.

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