Damning findings against Shane Drumgold in Lehrmann inquiry

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Damning findings against Shane Drumgold in Lehrmann inquiry

By Angus Thompson

ACT top prosecutor Shane Drumgold, SC, lied to the Supreme Court in the lead-up to the rape trial of former Coalition staffer Bruce Lehrmann, a report into the handling of the high-profile case has found.

The inquiry helmed by former Queensland Supreme Court judge Walter Sofronoff has made several damning findings about the conduct of the territory’s Director of Public Prosecutions, including that he improperly questioned Liberal senator Linda Reynolds during the trial.

ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold is the subject of damning findings by a high-profile inquiry.

ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold is the subject of damning findings by a high-profile inquiry.Credit: Rhett Wyman

Drumgold declined to comment when contacted on Thursday morning as he had not seen the report. His barrister, Mark Tedeschi, KC, also declined to comment.

The findings of the inquiry were handed to the ACT government on Monday, and are not expected to be formally released until the end of the month, when the territory’s parliament next sits.

According to multiple sources familiar with the inquiry, Sofronoff has also found that while ACT police investigators acted in error during the case, they did so without ill intent.

No findings were made against Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates, whose conduct was also reviewed by the probe.

The inquiry held that the charge was brought properly against Bruce Lehrmann, which was never disputed by lawyers who appeared at the public hearings into the conduct of the trial.

Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting his former colleague Brittany Higgins in the Parliament House office of their then boss, Reynolds, after a night out drinking with friends in March 2019.

The trial was aborted in October due to juror misconduct, and Drumgold scrapped the prospect of a retrial in December due to concerns over Higgins’ mental health. Lehrmann maintains his innocence.


Lehrmann said in a statement on Thursday that the findings relayed what his legal team had suspected all along, saying it was “overwhelming and alarming reading”.

“It is a credit to Mr Sofronoff and his team for pulling back the covers and exposing what really is a dark chapter for the ACT justice system,” he said.

According to an article published by The Australian, the full extent of the report is expected to make findings against Drumgold’s conduct before, during and after the trial, including over his viewing of Ms Higgins’ counselling notes he went to lengths to ensure no one else saw, as well as public comments made in support of her when he discontinued proceedings last year.

Sources say Drumgold was found to have lied to the Supreme Court over a note made about a meeting with broadcaster Lisa Wilkinson before she made a speech at the Logies about Higgins in June 2022, causing the trial to be delayed.

Drumgold – who has been criticised over whether he properly warned Wilkinson against making the speech – accepted during the inquiry that he had misled the court into believing the note was a contemporaneous account of the meeting, when it was compiled after her speech. Drumgold said his conduct was unintentional.


“But it could have the effect of misleading her [Chief Justice Lucy McCallum], yes,” he told the inquiry.

Sofronoff has also found Drumgold improperly questioned Reynolds over the presence of her partner at the back of the court during the trial, and about her texting Lehrmann’s lawyer with suggested lines of inquiry during the trial.

The secrecy over its response is expected to compound speculation about the future of Drumgold, who triggered the inquiry after writing to ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan in November about his belief detectives were pressuring him not to prosecute Lehrmann, sparking a public falling out between the prosecutors’ office and police.

During the inquiry, Drumgold criticised the attitudes of police – who had described Higgins as manipulative and evasive in investigative documents – as backwards, while detectives said Drumgold behaved with hostility towards them.

Drumgold rocked the inquiry when he said a series of “strange events” led him to believe there was federal interference in the trial, claims he walked back a day later, attributing police resistance to “most likely a skills deficit on the part of investigators”.

After a withering week of evidence in the witness box at the outset of the public hearings, Drumgold took a month’s leave from the top job, which has been extended until the end of August.

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