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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Jasper Lindell

Sofronoff cancels 'presumption of innocence' speech, cites 'issues' with ACT govt

Walter Sofronoff KC. Picture supplied

Walter Sofronoff KC, who chaired a board of inquiry into the handling of the Parliament House rape case, has cancelled a scheduled speech in which he was set to address the matter, journalism and the presumption of innocence.

Queensland Media Club announced the event on August 1, a day after Mr Sofronoff handed his inquiry report to ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

Mr Sofronoff was due to appear on August 25 in an audience hosted by a journalist from The Australian.

"Queensland Media Club invites you to an audience with prominent jurist Walter Sofronoff KC on 'Politics, journalism and social media v The presumption of innocence'," the club's event page had said.

"Mr Sofronoff has now completed his inquiry into the handling of allegations made by Brittany Higgins against her former colleague Bruce Lehrmann.

"His address to the Queensland Media Club will discuss the issues raised including contemporary challenges to a fundamental legal principle."

But the club announced the event had been cancelled on Tuesday afternoon, following media attention.

"Given the issues that have now arisen between Mr Sofronoff and the ACT Chief Minister and Attorney General, Mr Sofronoff considers that it is not possible to participate in the proposed event," the club posted on social media.

Mr Barr on Monday said the government was considering its options for possible penalties Mr Sofronoff could face, after the former president of the Queensland Court of Appeal said he had given the board of inquiry report to two journalists, including one who worked for The Australian, and Brittany Higgins' solicitor.

The Australian reported the findings of the inquiry on Wednesday night, forcing the ACT government to rush its formal release of the report.

Mr Barr indicated Mr Sofronoff could face an ACT Integrity Commission investigation.

"He breached his good faith to me by releasing that report ahead of giving it to who he was meant to under the legislation," Mr Barr said.

The government said it was considering strengthening the provisions of section 17 of the Inquiries Act 1991, which set out penalties for disclosing information from a board of inquiry.

The maximum penalty for breaching the act is an $8000 fine or a six-month jail term. The Canberra Times does not suggest Mr Sofronoff's actions were in breach of the law.

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