Surprise twist after inquiry into Lehrmann prosecution

A former judge has been referred to the ACT Integrity Commission following allegations about his conduct during an inquiry into the criminal prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann.

The territory commission confirmed on Friday it was considering allegations of misconduct against ex-Queensland jurist Walter Sofronoff.

The allegations relate to his dealings with journalists during a 2023 Board of Inquiry and his decision to release the final report to a journalist before it was handed to the ACT chief minister. 

Walter Sofronoff
Corruption allegations against Walter Sofronoff relate to his dealings with journalists in 2023.

Former top ACT prosecutor Shane Drumgold resigned after damning findings were made against him following the inquiry chaired by Mr Sofronoff. 

Mr Sofronoff's final report found the ex-director of public prosecutions had engaged in unethical conduct during the Lehrmann trial.

Mr Drumgold launched legal action last August to invalidate the adverse findings, with his lawyers arguing Mr Sofronoff’s communications with The Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen had “infected” him with bias.

The ACT Supreme Court was told Ms Albrechtsen had written a number of articles critical of Mr Drumgold.

Acting Justice Stephen Kaye last month found Mr Sofronoff’s behaviour “gave rise to a reasonable intention of bias”.

Mr Drumgold later said he was "delighted" with the ruling and looked forward to moving on after resigning.

On Friday, Integrity Commissioner Michael Adams said he was confirming the allegations had been received based on the "extraordinary and ongoing public discourse" about the conduct of the Board of Inquiry and the ensuing judgment in Mr Drumgold's legal challenge. 

"I have determined that it is in the public interest to disclose that the commission is assessing whether the issues call for investigation," he said.

"I see no reputational damage arising from making this announcement, noting that it involves no adverse findings of any kind."

Shane Drumgold
Former ACT director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold took legal action over adverse findings.

The commission usually doesn't confirm or deny the referral or investigation of corruption allegations unless there are exceptional circumstances.

"Here, the issues are especially important, their subject matter has already been widely publicised and the need for the integrity commission to assess and, if necessary, investigate them is apparent," it said in a statement.

"The recent litigation has now concluded. It is accordingly appropriate for this announcement to be made."

Ex-Liberal staffer Mr Lehrmann, 28, was accused of raping Brittany Higgins, a fellow political staffer, in a minister's office in Parliament House in March 2019.

He denies the allegation.

His 2022 criminal trial was abandoned due to jury misconduct and a retrial was called off over concerns about Ms Higgins' health.

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store