Former Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold has launched legal action against the board of inquiry that ended his career.
The ACT Supreme Court has listed the following matter: Drumgold v Board of Inquiry – Criminal Justice System & Ors for September 14, 2023.
News.com.au has contacted Mr Drumgold, the ACT Government and Walter Sofronoff KC for comment about the legal action.
Mr Drumgold resigned from his position following the leak of a report into his handling of the Bruce Lehrmann trial. Mr Sofornoff KC confirmed he provided it to two journalists ahead of publication by the ACT Government.
The 58-year-old barrister said he made “mistakes” in his prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann but rejected any suggestions he lied to the court.
Mr Drumgold previously criticised the leaks arguing he has been denied natural justice and is disappointed the investigation never bothered to canvass the leaking of Brittany Higgins private text messages to the media.
He decried the “weaponsation” of Ms Higgins private and confidential records by the media which has involved leaking the entire contents of her phone and an unpublished book.
The report asserted that Mr Drumgold engaged in serious malpractice and grossly unethical conduct while appearing as the prosecutor in the trial of Bruce Lehrmann, who maintains his innocence.
Mr Drumgold went on paid medical leave on a weekly salary of $9,266 a week since he spent a bruising five days in the witness box in May.
Mr Drumgold announced his resignation last month after private talks with the Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury who indicated his ongoing employment in the role was no longer tenable in the wake of an inquiry into his alleged conduct.
The Sofronoff inquiry found the DPP deliberately lied to the ACT Supreme Court and tried to withhold information from Bruce Lehrmann’s defence team. Mr Drumgold disputes the findings.
But he won’t formally resign until September 1, ensuring his medical leave tops 15 weeks and around $135,000 before he enters retirement.
In a statement, Mr Drumgold said he was disappointed that his letter which led to the Board of Inquiry, which had extremely broad powers, did not deliver a seminal moment in time, one to potentially rival the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Assault.
“In November 2022 I wrote a letter to the ACT’s Chief Police Officer. In it I set out serious concerns I then held about the way an investigation and trial of DPP v Lehrmann were handled,’’ he said.
“In my mind, the handling of the case was reflective of the chronic problem in Australia with the way our legal institutions deal with allegations of sexual violence.
Shane Drumgold ‘denied natural justice’
Mr Drumgold said he was provided with a copy of the Board’s final report late on Friday 4 August 2023 – well after the Board itself released it to members of the media.
“Having now read the report, I dispute many of its adverse findings about me,’’ he said.
“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.
“The findings relating to my forensic trial decisions are difficult to reconcile with those decisions having been made in the context of a robust adversarial process, with a strong and experienced defence team and an eminently qualified judge who presided over the trial. It is difficult to reconcile the findings with the trial judge’s expression of gratitude at the end of the case, for the exemplary way all counsel conducted the trial.
“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.
“The pre-emptive release of the Report to the media has denied me procedural fairness. It has deprived the ACT Government of the opportunity of considering my conduct objectively.
“My career has been driven by a fire burning within, lit by an early life spent surrounded by the pain of chronic intergenerational social injustice. This fire has fuelled a life that took me from a disadvantaged Housing Commission estate to an esteemed leadership role within the legal profession.
“Unfortunately, I find the fire has been extinguished, and try as I might, I cannot reignite it.
“Although I dispute many of the findings of the Inquiry, I accept that the premature publicity surrounding me means that my office, the Courts and most importantly the ACT public, could not presently have faith in the discharge of the functions of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“Accordingly, I have decided to retire from my role, effective 1 September 2023. I hope everyone involved in this matter finds peace – and I wish you all well.”