A board of inquiry chair probing Bruce Lehrmann’s rape trial was exchanging messages with a journalist whereas the highest prosecutor was giving proof within the witness field, a courtroom has been instructed.
Shane Drumgold’s authorized battle with the inquiry which led to his resignation has begun within the ACT, with the Supreme Court being instructed of the in depth communications the inquiry’s chair had with reporters all through the probe.
More than 90 calls had been made to journalists – with Mr Sofronoff talking with The Australian newspaper for greater than 11 hours, the courtroom was instructed.
Mr Drumgold, the territory’s Director of Public Prosecutions for 5 years till his resignation, has launched authorized motion to problem a report that discovered he engaged in misconduct in the course of the trial of Mr Lehrmann, who was accused of raping his colleague Brittany Higgins in 2019.
Mr Lehrmann’s 2022 jury trial was declared a mistrial resulting from juror misconduct and a deliberate retrial was deserted by prosecutors resulting from considerations about Ms Higgins’ psychological well being.
He pleaded not responsible and has continued to disclaim the allegations.
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The subsequent inquiry, chaired by former Queensland Supreme Court choose Walter Sofronoff, made a number of severe findings of misconduct towards Mr Drumgold.
Mr Sofronoff discovered the previous chief prosecutor “lost objectivity and did not act with fairness and detachment as was required by his role” in the course of the trial, superior a false declare of authorized skilled privilege over sure paperwork and misled the courtroom about notes made throughout a gathering with journalist Lisa Wilkinson, earlier than her notorious Logies speech, amongst different claims.
On Tuesday the courtroom was instructed Mr Drumgold was abandoning a number of grounds within the proceedings, together with claims the board of inquiry didn’t adjust to the legislation and a few of his claims the findings had been “legally unreasonable”.
Dan O’Gorman SC – appearing for Mr Drumgold – stated the give attention to proceedings can be claims of a “reasonable apprehension of bias” superior in his second floor of the applying.
“What is of concern for ground two is if a fair-minded lay observer might reasonably apprehend that Mr Sofronoff might not bring an impartial mind to the resolution of the questions that were before him,” Mr O’Gorman instructed the courtroom.
“There were these private communications that no-one knew about at the time.”
The courtroom was instructed 91 calls had been made between Mr Sofronoff and journalists overlaying the inquiry.
73 had been with The Australian newspaper and 51 had been with one in all its journalists, Janet Albrechtsen, the courtroom heard.
Mr O’Gorman stated they’d be submitting Ms Albrechtsen was an “advocate”, who had exchanged quite a few texts and messages with Mr Sofronoff throughout his time chairing the inquiry.
“What Mr Drumgold alleges is Mr Sofronoff’s association with Ms Albrechtsen, in particular, might be thought by a fair-minded observer to have diverted Mr Sofronoff from deciding the issues in his terms of reference, on their merit,” he stated.
“We submit The Australian (and) Ms Albrechtsen engaged in media reporting adverse to Mr Drumgold.”
Mr O’Gorman instructed the courtroom the articles revealed by Ms Albrechtsen “impugned” Mr Drumgold – whom he submitted was “the brunt of this negative reporting” – and forged Mr Lehrmann in a “favourable light”.
He submitted Ms Albrechtsen had an “extraordinary” quantity of contact with Mr Sofronoff till the report was submitted.
“Information that was of importance to the inquiry and its deliberations … were passed on. Certain documents were passed on,” Mr O’Gorman stated.
Mr O’Gorman stated a fair-minded observer would have “real concerns as to what’s going on here”.
He submitted Mr Sofronoff didn’t carry an “unburdened mind” to the inquiry because of Ms Albrechtsen’s “bias”.
One change concerned Mr Sofronoff and Ms Albrechtsen discussing a declare of malicious prosecution introduced by Mr Lehrmann towards Mr Drumgold, whereas others mentioned a suppressed keep utility.
Mr Sofronoff ends the change with: “Truly a pleasure to engage.”
Others included discussions on the controversies surrounding Mr Drumgold, Ms Higgins, Mr Lehrmann and associated events and the police, Mr O’Gorman stated.
He instructed the courtroom: “One wonders why she is at all discussing with the inquiry chair, some stay application … that had been suppressed?”
“It is of some concern to the reasonable-minded bystander that she goes on … (about) a document that would shed light on certain behaviours of Mr Drumgold, who of course is a key figure in the inquiry.”
Another 13 communications had been exchanged whereas Mr Sofronoff was giving proof on the inquiry.
“Importantly, Mr Drumgold was not aware of any of it. He had no idea what was going on behind the scenes,” he defined.
Mr O’Gorman stated the communications had been in breach of Mr Sofronoff’s personal communication pointers set down for the inquiry.
The listening to continues.
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