A damning report into how the ACT’s former chief prosecutor handled the prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann should be struck out because it denied him “natural justice” and key parts of its findings were “legally unreasonable”, his lawyers have argued.
D-Day has arrived for the former ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold, who has launched legal action against the territory’s government and a board of inquiry into his handling of Mr Lehrmann’s prosecution for the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins.
The first day of a three-day hearing is due to begin at the ACT Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The matter is due to be heard at 10am AEDT.
Mr Drumgold handled the prosecution of Mr Lehrmann, a former parliamentary staffer who was accused of raping his colleague Brittany Higgins in 2019.
Mr Lehrmann’s 2022 jury trial was declared a mistrial due to juror misconduct and a planned retrial was abandoned by prosecutors due to concerns about Ms Higgins’ mental health.
He pleaded not guilty and has continued to deny the allegations.
A subsequent inquiry into Mr Lehrmann’s prosecution, chaired by former Queensland Supreme Court judge Walter Sofronoff, made several serious findings of misconduct against Mr Drumgold.
Mr Sofronoff found the former chief prosecutor “lost objectivity and did not act with fairness and detachment as was required by his role” during the trial, advanced a false claim of legal professional privilege over certain documents and misled the court about notes made during a meeting with journalist Lisa Wilkinson, before her infamous Logies speech, among other claims.
Mr Drumgold resigned in the fallout of the report’s release.
But lawyers for Mr Drumgold are seeking a declaration that the report — or alternatively parts of the report — are invalid and of no effect.
In his statement of claim, Mr Drumgold argued the inquiry denied him “natural justice”, breached the law and “gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias”.
He also claimed findings in part of the report were “legally unreasonable” — including findings he had “knowingly lied to the Chief Justice” and advanced a false claim of legal professional privilege about certain documents during the trial.
Mr Drumgold has also claimed some findings were made outside of the board of inquiry’s term of reference.
Mr Drumgold’s legal team are also seeking a declaration he was denied “natural justice” by the board of inquiry, costs and “any other orders that the court considers appropriate”.
Outside of his findings against Mr Drumgold, Mr Sofronoff found the police’s decision to charge and prosecute Mr Lehrmann was the correct course of action.
The release of the report provoked controversy after it emerged early copies had been leaked to the media – including The Australian – ahead of the planned release to the ACT government.