Former Queensland solicitor-general Walter Sofronoff to lead inquiry into trial of Bruce Lehrmann for alleged rape of Brittany Higgins
A board of inquiry into the conduct of police and prosecutors in the case against former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann will be chaired by Walter Sofronoff, who was previously Queensland’s attorney-general and headed the state’s Court of Appeal.
Key points: Walter Sofronoff led the Grantham Floods Commission of Inquiry in 2016. He retired as attorney-general for Queensland in 2014 after five years in the post.Further details of the terms of reference for the inquiry are expected to be released on Wednesday
The inquiry was announced last year after the ACT’s director of public prosecutions (DPP), Shane Drumgold, claimed police pressured him to drop the rape trial.
Mr Lehrmann was accused of raping his then colleague Brittany Higgins in an office at Parliament House in 2019.
His trial was halted after misconduct by a juror and although a retrial was originally scheduled to start on February 20, the retrial was dropped by Mr Drumgold last year amid fears any trial would adversely affect Ms Higgins’ health .
Mr Lehrmann maintained his innocence and there were no findings against him.
In the letter Mr Drumgold sent to the ACT’s chief constable, Neil Gaughan, just days before the government announced an inquiry, the territory’s top prosecutor complained of “blatant misrepresentations” and “cherry-picked” summaries of evidence by officers, as he claimed. the police pressured him on a number of occasions not to charge Mr Lehrmann.
He said there was also an attempt to pressure him not to proceed with a retrial.
Bruce Lehrmann maintained his innocence throughout the trial, and has continued to do so ever since. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)
In December, the ACT government announced it would hold a board of inquiry – the ACT equivalent of a royal commission – into the roles played by criminal justice agencies.
At the time, Chief Minister Andrew Barr described the allegations as “serious” and said it was crucial to ensure those involved carried out their duties with “appropriate rigour, impartiality and independence”.
The government has already made it clear that the inquiry will look into interactions between the police and prosecutors, the appropriateness of ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates supporting Ms Higgins during the trial, and whether the ACT should introduce measures to deal with juror misconduct.
Further details are expected to be announced tomorrow.
But it was revealed today that Mr Sofronoff would lead the independent inquiry.
Mr Sofronoff is no stranger to inquiries, having chaired the Grantham Floods Commission of Inquiry in 2016.
He stepped down as Attorney-General for Queensland in 2014, after five years.
And in May last year he stepped down as president of the Queensland Court of Appeal.
Mr Barr has previously said he wants a report from the inquiry before the end of June, although the formal terms of reference have yet to be announced.