ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold, 58, has offered his resignation in the wake of the leaked Sofronoff report and will enter retirement.
Sources confirmed to news.com.au that he had tendered his resignation and planned to enter retirement. Mr Drumgold has been on paid leave since May when he ended a torrid day in the witness box.
Mr Drumgold has been a prosecutor for the ACT DPP since 2002 and had been in the role of the territory chief prosecutor for the past four years.
It’s a stunning outcome after Mr Drumgold effectively demanded the inquiry in a furious letter to ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan on November 1, 2022, which included what the inquiry described as “scandalous allegations” about political interference.
“The result has been a public inquiry, which was not justified by any of his allegations, that has caused lasting pain to many people and which has demonstrated his allegations to be not just incorrect, but wholly false and without any rational basis,” Mr Sofronoff finds.
Mr Drumgold told colleagues he was left “in absolute shock” over the report being provided to two media outlets by the inquiry chairman Walter Sofronoff KC without the authorisation of the ACT Government.
Mr Drumgold has been left distressed in recent days after media outlets camped out on his lawn as his children came and went from the house.
Contacted by news.com.au on Thursday, Mr Drumgold confirmed he had not been provided with a copy of the 600-page report.
“I still don’t know what is in the report. Other than what I have read in the newspaper,’’ he told news.com.au on Thursday.
“Unfortunately I have neither seen the report nor have I been informed of any content, so I am not in a position to respond.”
It’s understood that the Board of Inquiry did inform the legal representatives of anyone who is the subject of an adverse finding and allowed counsel to make submissions.
Traumatic childhood of man who rose to become DPP
When he was appointed to the role, the amateur boxer was Australia’s first Indigenous DPP, a position he had reached after leaving school and home when he was 15.
Mr Drumgold has previously spoken of growing up in Mount Druitt in the 1960s and 70s, his strongest childhood memories were of waiting for his dad in drug rehab.
“We were in waiting rooms to see him in one of three environments – a drug rehab, a mental institution or prison,” he says.
“And I thought that’s the way life existed. I thought this was life.”
In a book he wrote, the barrister discusses the death of his father who took his own life after suffering from severe psychiatric illness and a younger brother who died at three from encephalitis.
“Growing up, I experienced first-hand that humans treat people who are weak, injured and socially different as most other pack mammals, by excluding them from the pack,’’ he wrote.
“Occasionally, the pack gives them the left-over carcass of charity or social welfare, but this only to ensure, deep down, that these people don’t get too close to the pack. When people like my family die, they don’t get parks or buildings named after them: they just cease to exist.
“Our three lives have been as different as three lives could possibly be, yet we share an inescapable bond that endures through time and social circumstance. A bond that has instilled in me the unalienable belief that everybody matters.”
Report finds decision to charge and prosecute Bruce Lehrmann was proper
The Sofronoff report found that the decision by police to charge and prosecute Bruce Lehrmann was a justified course of action.
That finding is not a reflection on the guilt or innocence of the former Liberal staffer.
Mr Lehrmann remains an innocent man under the law, as he was never convicted before the trial collapsed following an allegation of juror misconduct.
It is a finding on the conduct of the police and the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions.
It is important however, because of the original firestorm of publicity sparked by the Moller report which was a police document detailing investigators’ concerns about the case.
“The most senior police officer on the Brittany Higgins case believed there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Bruce Lehrmann but could not stop the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions from proceeding because ‘there is too much political interference’, according to diary notes made by the ACT Police Manager of Criminal Investigations, Detective Superintendent Scott Moller,’’ The Australian reported on December 3, 2022.
However, Walter Sofronoff SC finds that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute and that the ACT DPP was correct to prosecute.
The police revealed at the inquiry that the political interference they were referring to was not about politicians pushing for a charge at all but the general media landscape and public interest.
Even Mr Moller also told the inquiry that despite the contents of the Moller report, he was ultimately convinced by Mr Drumgold’s arguments for why there was a proper basis to prosecute based on the evidence the police had collated.
Report finds Drumgold ‘knowingly lied’
The report finds Mr Drumgold, “knowingly lied” to the ACT Supreme Court over his purported warning to Lisa Wilkinson over her Logies speech, according to a landmark inquiry.
The probe into Bruce Lehrmann’s trial, led by Walter Sofronoff KC, found evidence of unethical conduct by Drumgold, including his use of a note concerning a discussion he held with Ms Wilkinson just days before her speech.
The inquiry report states that the findings against Mr Drumgold are so serious that Mr Sofronoff considered whether he should invite the DPP to make a submission as to whether he was a fit and proper person to hold that office.
Ultimately, he determined it was not in his terms of reference.
Mr Sofronoff accuses him of failing to disclose material to the defence when he ought to have done so.
“Mr Drumgold kept the defence in the dark about steps he was taking to deny them the documents,” Mr Sofronoff said.
“Criminal litigation is not a poker game in which a prosecutor can hide the cards.”
Mr Drumgold remains on leave from his job and has not returned to work since his bruising evidence at the Sofronoff inquiry in May.
The inquiry finds the police “performed their duties in absolute good faith, with great determination although faced with obstacles, and put together a sound case”.
Curse of the Logies
Ms Wilkinson’s Logies speech sparked a four-month delay to the trial, and the Chief Justice’s stern criticism of Ms Wilkinson contributed to a firestorm of adverse publicity.
Mr Sofronoff has found Mr Drumgold “knowingly lied to the Chief Justice” about a warning he gave not to give the speech.
“For the Chief Justice’s purposes, the note was not contemporaneous,’’ the report states.
“I reject that a prudent and experienced barrister would behave in that way or make a mistake of this calibre.
“This is a wholly untenable excuse for a barrister of the seniority and experience of Mr Drumgold.”
Mr Sofronoff rejected Mr Drumgold’s insistence this was an honest mistake.
“He must have known that (Chief Justice) McCallum had found, as a matter of fact, that Ms Wilkinson had engaged in wilful defiance of his ‘appropriate’ warning and that her finding was based entirely on the proofing note,’’ the report states.
Mr Sofronoff writes that Ms Wilkinson was a very experienced broadcaster who should have been cautious about making such a speech given the proximity of the trial, but nevertheless, the DPP had a responsibility to the court.
“Instead, he did nothing and thereby left alive a threat to the trial,’’ he said.
Mr Sofronoff finds the DPP abandoned the “golden rule” of disclosure and the practice of experienced prosecutors that “if in doubt, disclose”.
The Sofronoff inquiry finds that Mr Drumgold repeatedly tried to ensure the so-called Moller Report stayed out of the hands of the defence, despite the fact they were legally entitled to it.
“Mr Drumgold could not name a source (for the privilege claim) in his instructions to his staff member because, as Mr Drumgold admitted in his evidence, he himself was the source,’’ the report finds.
Mr Drumgold is accused of using “dishonest means to prevent a person he was prosecuting from lawfully obtaining material”.
The report also finds Mr Drumgold’s speech after the trial collapsed implied he “personally believed Ms Higgins’ complaint of rape was true and that, as a consequence, Mr Lehrmann was guilty”.
Mr Sofronoff finds this was also improper conduct on behalf of the DPP.