Shane Drumgold sues the board of inquiry into Bruce Lehrmann’s case after damning report

Shane Drumgold sues the board of inquiry into Bruce Lehrmann’s case after damning report

Shane Drumgold, the former ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, is suing a board of inquiry over a damning report that ended his career.

The matter of Drumgold v Board of Inquiry – Criminal Justice System & Ors is listed for hearing in the ACT Supreme Court on September 14.

The former top prosecutor has been on paid medical leave since May when he spent five days in the witness box during the inquiry. Despite being away from office, he has reportedly continued to receive a weekly salary of $9,266. 

Mr Drumgold resigned in early August over a 600-page report, by former judge Walter Sofronoff, that contained a raft of findings against him – including that he knowingly mislead a Chief Justice and lost objectivity.

The report was the result of a Board of Inquiry – held at Mr Drumgold’s request – which examined the way Bruce Lehrmann’s rape trial was handled by police and prosecutors in October last year.

Mr Lehrmann was tried in the ACT Supreme Court in October after his former colleague Brittany Higgins alleged he raped her in Parliament House after a night out in 2019. He strongly denies the allegations.

The trial initially collapsed because a rogue juror brought banned research material into the court, before Mr Drumgold dropped the matter entirely in December citing concerns for Ms Higgins’ mental health. 

The Board of Inquiry was launched after ACT DPP Shane Drumgold (pictured) claimed there was political interference in the investigation into Mr Lehrmann

One month before the charge was dropped, Mr Drumgold fired off an email to police calling for a Board of Inquiry – the ACT’s version of a royal commission – because he believed Australian Federal Police had conspired not to charge Mr Lehrmann.

In his findings, Mr Sofronoff said he was deeply disturbed’ by Mr Drumgold’s behaviour, likening him to Pontius Pilate – a Roman governor who gave into demands to crucify Jesus. 

The judge also found Mr Drumgold knowingly lied to Chief Justice Lucy McCallum about Wilkinson’s infamous Logies speech – during which she spoke on television about Ms Higgins’ allegations as though they were true, despite the impending jury trial.

After his resignation was announced, Mr Drumgold slammed Mr Sofronoff’s findings in a defiant statement – criticising the report for focusing on him rather than the way sexual assault cases are handled within the legal system.

‘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,’ he wrote. 

‘My hope was that through a post-mortem of one matter, we could obtain a better understanding of why 87 out of 100 women don’t report their experience?’

Mr Drumgold admitted to making ‘mistakes’ during the case but ‘strongly disputed’ the claim that he was ‘dishonest’ and ‘engaged in deliberate or underhanded conduct in 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,’ he said. 

Mr Drumgold also spoke of his upbringing in government housing, saying ‘my career has been driven by a fire burning within … 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.’