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Former Qld S-G appointed, Terms of Reference released, for Lehrmann trial inquiry

The ACT has appointed the former president of the Queensland Court of Appeal, who also served as the state’s solicitor-general, to lead the board of inquiry into the conduct of criminal justice agencies involved in the trial R v Lehrmann — for which terms of reference have now been released.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 02 February 2023 Politics
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In late December, the ACT government announced that it would establish a board of inquiry to ensure that the territory’s framework for progressing criminal investigations and prosecutions is “robust, fair and respects the rights of those involved”.

It came about following complaints and allegations related to the high-profile case of R v Lehrmann, in which the trial was aborted due to juror misconduct. The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, then opted not to proceed with the scheduled second trial, in light of fears for the health of Brittany Higgins, who has accused her former political staffer colleague, Mr Lehrmann, of rape in an office at Parliament House.

Mr Lehrmann has maintained his innocence, and no findings have been made against him.


At the time of announcing the inquiry, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that the allegations made following the trial were serious and that an independent review of the roles played by the criminal justice agencies involved was the most appropriate response.

Now, the territory government has appointed Walter Sofronoff KC as the chair of the board of inquiry.

Mr Sofronoff was the solicitor-general of Queensland from 2005–2014, and from 2017–2022, he served as the president of the state’s Court of Appeal.

Speaking about the appointment, Mr Barr said: “Mr Sofronoff is a highly regarded legal expert with experience leading sensitive inquiries throughout his career.”

“I am confident that Mr Sofronoff will deliver a thorough and respectful independent inquiry.”

The terms of reference for the inquiry were also released yesterday (1 February), acknowledging that public confidence in the territory’s criminal justice system is needed.

“Recent public reporting and commentary in relation to the case of R v Lehrmann, and in relation to a letter sent by the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions to the Chief Police Officer, ACT Policing dated 1 November 2022, raise issues that may have wider implications for the prosecution of criminal matters in the territory,” the TOR’s preamble noted.

The terms include investigations into whether any police officers, the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Victims of Crime Commissioner failed to act in accordance with their duties or acted in breach of their duties in their conduct during the investigation of the case, and the circumstances around, and decisions that led to the public release of the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions’ letter to the Chief Police Officer of ACT Policing.

ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said: “The board of inquiry was established to ensure the territory’s framework for progressing criminal investigations and prosecutions is robust, fair and respects the rights of those involved.

“It is important to remember that this will not be a retrial of the case; it will focus on whether the criminal justice officials involved performed their duties with appropriate rigour, impartiality, and independence.”

The board of inquiry will report on its findings by 30 June 2023.