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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Hannah Neale

Police officers launch bid to stop Drumgold from quashing board findings

Shane Drumgold SC, who launched legal action in August. Picture by Karleen Minney

Six police officers are seeking to maintain an inquiry's damning findings about a former ACT top prosecutor's conduct because the report is "generally favourable" to them.

Shane Drumgold SC, who resigned as director of public prosecutions after being slammed over his conduct in the case against former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann, launched legal action in August.

Mr Drumgold's application seeks the entire report be quashed or, alternatively, the conclusions made in relation to him be declared invalid, unlawful or affected by bias or a denial of natural justice.

Six police officers - Michael Chew, Scott Moller, Marcus Boorman, Robert Rose, Trent Madders and Emma Frizzell - have now applied to be part of the case. All six provided written statements or gave evidence during the board of inquiry hearing.

The 839-page board of inquiry report, written by chairman Walter Sofronoff KC, forms "part of a public record about matters relevant to their reputations and careers", their application states.

"The applicants are interested in maintaining the findings and comments made in the report that relate to them, because those findings and comments are generally favourable to the applicants, and form part of a public record about matters relevant to their reputations and careers," it reads.

If the report, or parts of it, were quashed the police officers may be "exposed to a new risk of adverse comments findings".

The findings of misconduct in relation to Mr Drumgold include that he knowingly lied to Chief Justice Lucy McCallum and "preyed on" the inexperience of a junior prosecutor while dishonestly withholding documents from Mr Lehrmann's lawyers.

In his first appearance in the matter in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday, Acting Justice Stephen Kaye adjourned the case for a further administrative hearing in December.

Acting Justice Kaye also ordered lawyers for Mr Sofronoff produce documents relating to a cancelled media event in Queensland.

Mr Drumgold's counsel, Dan O'Gorman SC, had sought communications about a cancelled talk, hosted by The Australian, at the Queensland Media Club on August 25.

The court heard a Tweet advertising the event said Mr Sofronoff would be discussing "issues raised by the inquiry".

The talk was scheduled six days before the board of inquiry report was set to be officially released.

However, the findings were sensationally published by The Australian on August 2 after Mr Sofronoff leaked the report ahead of time.

On Friday, Mr O'Gormon said he was also seeking communications regarding the cancellation of the event.

The barrister told the court he didn't know exactly when the decision was made to cancel the talk, but had "a gut feeling" it was made about 10 days before the event was scheduled.

"This ground goes to the [alleged] apprehended bias. What we submit is the fact that Mr Sofronoff was to be hosted by a journalist who was with The Australian," Mr O'Gorman said.

"If it was cancelled because of the fact that a report had been leaked in the manner it had, and the media coverage that followed, that is one thing.

"If it was cancelled because Mr Sofronoff realised it was inappropriate for him to be acting in this manner at that particular time [that's another]."

Counsel for Mr Sofronoff and the board of inquiry, John Sheehan, had argued against the discovery of the documents.

He told the court the defendant had already made concessions about the event, and "Mr Sofronoff sought to be as cooperative as possible".

"I understand my friend's curiosity ... in a sort of lay person's sense ... but this court is not conducting a commission of inquiry into the commission of inquiry," Mr Sheehan said.

The trial against Mr Lehrmann was aborted last year because of juror misconduct, with the charge levelled at the former Liberal staffer, who maintains his innocence, later discontinued.

No findings have been made against Mr Lehrmann.

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