6 August 2023

UPDATED: Shane Drumgold denies wrongdoing after heavily critical Sofronoff report findings leaked

| Genevieve Jacobs
man and woman in legal robes

Prosecutor Skye Jerome leaves court with Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC during the aborted Lehrmann trial. Photo: Albert McKnight.

UPDATED 6:15 pm: Former ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC has broken his silence on the findings that ended his career, acknowledging mistakes but strongly disputing any wrongdoing.

Mr Drumgold’s resignation was made public today after damning findings from the Sofronoff Board of Inquiry into the ACT’s handling of sexual assault allegations against Bruce Lehrmann were pre-emptively leaked to media and reported on Wednesday night (2 August) by The Australian.

“While I acknowledge I made mistakes, I strongly dispute that I engaged in deliberate or underhanded conduct in the trial or that I was dishonest.

“Although I accept my conduct was less than perfect, my decisions were all made in good faith, under intense and sometimes crippling pressure, conducted within increasingly unmanageable workloads”, Mr Drumgold said in a statement.

But he hit back at the decision to leak the board of inquiry report, alleging that he had been denied procedural fairness and prevented the ACT government from considering his conduct objectively.

Mr Drumgold said he’d hoped the inquiry would be a turning point for how allegations of sexual assault are treated, but instead the findings had largely focussed on his own behaviour.

2:45 pm: ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury has confirmed that the ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC has resigned.

The findings of the Sofronoff inquiry into how the Bruce Lehrmann matter was handled by the ACT’s judicial system are expected to be released early this week after damaging leaks appeared in national media last Wednesday night.

Mr Rattenbury confirmed he had spoken directly with Mr Drumgold on Thursday (3 August). He said the pair reached the mutual conclusion that the DPP’s position was “no longer tenable” in light of the findings.

Mr Drumgold has been on extended leave since mid-May, when he was forced to walk back several serious allegations during a disastrous week giving evidence to the inquiry.

According to sources who have seen the report, it made extensive criticisms of Mr Drumgold’s actions, although his decision to prosecute sexual assault allegations against Bruce Lehrmann was confirmed. This does not imply Mr Lehrmann was guilty, rather that the allegations and weight of evidence in the case was substantial enough to warrant a trial.

Sensationally, inquiry chair Walter Sofronoff KC decided to release the inquiry’s findings under embargo to several media outlets, before giving them to either the ACT Government, ACT police or other parties closely involved in the matter including Mr Drumgold. It’s understood he has now been provided with a copy of the report.

Leaked sections of the report say Mr Drumgold failed to adequately perform several key duties as the DPP and made “untrue” statements before Chief Justice Lucy McCallum in pre-trial hearings.

The inquiry found this behaviour took place knowingly, and that Mr Drumgold had engaged in serious malpractice, grossly unethical conduct, “preyed on a junior lawyer’s inexperience”, betrayed a junior lawyer who trusted him, and treated criminal litigation as “a poker game in which a prosecutor can hide the cards”.

READ ALSO Sofronoff Report contents make Drumgold’s position untenable

The inquiry found Mr Drumgold had lost objectivity during the Lehrmann prosecution and did not act with the fairness and detachment required by his role.

In addition, the allegations on which Mr Drumgold had staked his call for an inquiry were all found to be baseless, including claims police had attempted to block the trial and there had been political interference in the criminal investigation.

The end of Mr Drumgold’s career as the DPP seemed a foregone conclusion as a result and it remains possible he may face criminal prosecution for perverting the course of justice.

Mr Rattenbury said he had received a letter from Mr Drumgold on Friday (4 August) confirming his resignation.

The ACT Government had not intended to release the report for a month, and had planned to “consider the report through a proper Cabinet process”, but is now expected to make a detailed statement early this week.

Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee is heading calls for Mr Drumgold’s history of prosecutions in the role to be examined, claiming that the administration of justice and access to a fair trial in the ACT must be questioned as result of the report’s findings.

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