ACT Integrity Commission investigating Walter Sofronoff over Bruce Lehrmann inquiry

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The ACT Integrity Commission is assessing corruption allegations regarding Walter Sofronoff, over claims he disclosed information to the media during the inquiry he oversaw into the handling of Bruce Lehrmann’s criminal trial.

Mr Sofronoff was last year tasked with examining whether the investigation and trial against Mr Lehrmann, over Brittany Higgins’ accusations her former colleague raped her inside Parliament House in 2019, were subject to political influence.

The trial against Mr Lehrmann was abandoned and he has always maintained his innocence.

Mr Sofronoff’s final report — which made adverse findings against former ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold – was disclosed to some sections of the media before being handed to the ACT government, which made adverse findings against Mr Drumgold, leading to his resignation.

The territory’s integrity commissioner said he was investigating allegations relating to disclosures made by Mr Sofronoff to media organisations, before the final report was handed to the ACT government.

Michael Adams KC said it was in the “public interest” to disclose he is looking into the matter.

“Given the extraordinary and ongoing public discourse about the conduct of the Board of Inquiry and the recent judgement in the Supreme Court in Drumgold v Board of Inquiry and Ors, 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 this announcement, noting that it involves no adverse findings of any kind.”

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled Mr Sofronoff’s extensive communications with a columnist during the inquiry he led into the handling of the trial gave rise to reasonable apprehension of bias against Mr Drumgold.

Justice Stephen Kaye found the inquiry’s head 273 interactions with The Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen gave the impression he “might have been influenced by the views held and publicly expressed” by her.

In his report, Mr Sofronoff found Mr Drumgold had lied to the Supreme Court in the lead-up to the criminal trial, and improperly questioned former minister Linda Reynolds on the stand, among other findings”, which Mr Drumgold disputed.

The court was asked to assess eight of Mr Sofronoff’s findings against Mr Drumgold, including that he had improperly questioned former minister Linda Reynolds on the stand during the trial.

The final orders were that Mr Sofronoff’s findings against Mr Drumgold in this instance were “legally unreasonable”