Bombshell as judge in charge of the inquiry into the Bruce Lehrmann and Brittany Higgins case is slammed for his ‘communications’ with high-profile columnist

A former judge was guilty of “sustained bias” while presiding over a public inquiry into the handling of the rape trial of Bruce Lehrmann, a judge has ruled.

Former ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold has taken the ACT Government and a commission of inquiry to court over a damning report into his conduct during the prosecution of Mr Lehrmann.

Mr Drumgold himself called for a public inquiry because he believed “political forces” were preventing the Australian Federal Police from properly investigating Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations.

The inquiry was held before former Queensland Supreme Court judge Walter Sofronoff KC in May last year.

Mr. Sofronoff found that Mr. Drumgold had engaged in serious malpractice and unethical conduct, saying he treated criminal trials as a “poker game” in which the prosecutor could “hide all the cards.”

Mr Drumgold initiated legal proceedings alleging Mr Sofronoff showed bias during the investigation, largely due to his extensive communications with Janet Albrechtsen – a columnist for The Australian.

On Monday, Acting Judge Stephen Kaye ruled that Mr Sofronoff’s communications with Ms Albrechtsen before and during the investigation were “of such a nature that an honest lay observer” could conclude he had been influenced by her articles.

The inquiry committee was set up after ACT DPP Shane Drumgold (pictured) alleged there was political interference in the investigation into Mr Lehrmann

The court will hear further arguments on Monday about the damages Drumgold is entitled to.

Mr Drumgold’s lawyer, Dan O’Gorman, had told the ACT Supreme Court during a three-day hearing in February that Ms Albrechtsen’s submissions were “negative” and that she was “poisoning” Mr Sofronoff’s mind.

Mr Sofronoff and Ms Albrechtsen exchanged 269 messages over about 169 days since she first contacted him in February last year, the court heard.

They also had a private lunch together in Queensland.

Between February and July 2023 alone, the court heard that Mr Sofronoff made 65 phone calls to journalists – a total of almost ten hours.

Of these, 55 were for people from The Australian – mainly Ms Albrechtsen – for a total of seven and a half hours.

During the month-long inquiry, Mr Sofronoff made 10 calls to The Australian, eight of which were to Ms Albrechtsen.

Mr Lehrmann (pictured) was tried in the ACT Supreme Court in October

Mr Lehrmann (pictured) was tried in the ACT Supreme Court in October

Mr O’Gorman told the court that a fair observer would wonder why there was any need for private contact with the media during the investigation into Mr Lehrmann’s trial.

Mr Drumgold resigned last August after the 600-page report was handed over.

It contained a slew of findings against him, including that he had knowingly misled the territory’s chief justice during the trial and had lost objectivity.

Mr Drumgold’s last day would be September 1, even though he has been on paid medical leave since May, when he was questioned on the witness stand for five days during the investigation.

He reportedly still received a weekly salary of $9,266.