10 May 2023

Police were 'feeding' inaccurate information in the hope of 'derailing' Bruce Lehrmann trial, DPP told inquiry

| Lizzie Waymouth
Shane Drumgold

Shane Drumgold told the Board of Inquiry on 10 May that he felt police were putting pressure on him before and during the trial to not proceed with the prosecution. Photo: Screenshot.

Police were “going to great lengths to feed inaccurate information” in the hope of “derailing” the trial against Bruce Lehrmann, Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC told the Board of Inquiry on Wednesday (10 May).

Mr Drumgold described a number of “really strange events” that he suspected could be connected and led him to demand a public inquiry into the matter.

When asked whether this could constitute a “political conspiracy”, Mr Drumgold said “there were enough incidences to make it possible, if not probable … I thought there was enough evidence there to justify an inquiry”.

He suggested that there may have been a “connection between federal interfering and ACT Policing”, and he was concerned about police engagement with “political witnesses” like senators Linda Reynolds and Michaelia Cash.

READ MORE Second day of Board of Inquiry raises further questions about DPP handling of Brittany Higgins’ evidence

The hearing discussed a letter from 1 November 2022, less than a week after the Lehrmann trial ended, in which the ACT chief prosecutor wrote that he had “serious concerns” about “quite clear investigator interference in the criminal justice process”.

“From first engagement, it has been clear that … key AFP members have had a strong desire for this matter not to proceed to charge,” Mr Drumgold wrote, describing “a very clear campaign to pressure me to agree with the investigators desire not to charge, then during the conduct of this trial itself and finally attempting to influence any decision on a retrial.”

In the letter, Mr Drumgold told the inquiry, he called for “certain police officers [to be] isolate[d] from engagement in the trial” to prevent them from aggravating “an already fragile complainant”.

The DPP has already voiced his concerns about the AFP’s conduct during the trial in questioning on Monday and Tuesday, suggesting that opinions formed by the police were based on “inadmissible evidence”.

“I’m concerned that I’ve got a police officer that has … drawn very strong opinions as a result of that inadmissible evidence and was in my view attempting – or potentially attempting – to feed those views and others to defence counsel,” he told the hearing on Wednesday.

Inquiry chair Walter Sofronoff KC questioned whether, even if these views were “unjustified and wrong-headed”, it was justification for the documents to be withheld.

“Who cares? Why do you care so much?” he asked Mr Drumgold, who responded, “there had been so much unusual stuff in this trial I was trying to … at least keep it sterile”.

READ ALSO Professionalism of ACT’s DPP brought into question at Board of Inquiry into handling of Lehrmann case

Mr Drumgold also told the hearing he expressed concerns about the police carrying out a second evidence-in-chief interview with Brittany Higgins to put to her “some inconsistencies in her accounts” in the first evidence-in-chief interview.

“I held concerns because a subsequent interview would be traumatic on a complainant,” he said, adding that inconsistencies should be left to the defence.

Mr Drumgold expressed an opinion about the “quality or the skillsets of the police officers asking the questions” as counsel assisting the inquiry Erin Longbottom KC explained.

“The EICI [evidence-in-chief interview] looked to me more like a defence cross-examination than evidence-in-chief … The evidence in there was not effectively led in the evidence-in-chief interview,” Mr Drumgold said.

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