Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds sues the ACT government and its former top prosecutor for defamation

Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds sues the ACT government and its former top prosecutor for defamation
  • PublishedDecember 8, 2023

The Liberal senator is suing over a letter the former ACT director of public prosecutions (DPP) penned to the Australian Federal Police during Bruce Lehrmann’s now-abandoned rape trial.

Mr Drumgold’s letter accused Senator Reynolds of “disturbing conduct” and when the letter was later released via a freedom of information (FOI) request, the correspondence was reported in the media.

One of the accusations Mr Drumgold made in the letter was about suspected political interference in Mr Lehrmann’s trial after Senator Reynolds sought transcripts of the testimony given by alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins.

He later walked back that claim.

Senator Reynolds’s latest lawsuit was filed in Western Australia’s Supreme Court on Monday.

In a statement, lawyers for Senator Reynolds said the ACT government was “vicariously liable” for any defamation because of its decision to release the letter under FOI processes.

“The release resulted in widespread republication of false and defamatory allegations,” the statement said.

Senator Reynolds is seeking “an apology and damages”.

Shane Drumgold out the front of the ACT courts.
Former ACT top prosecutor Shane Drumgold currently has his own legal action against the ACT government.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

In a statement, an ACT government spokeswoman said the territory was aware that Senator Reynolds “had issued a concerns notice in relation to what she alleged to be defamatory statements” made by Mr Drumgold.

“The territory has only just become aware that Senator Reynolds has apparently filed legal proceedings but those proceedings have not been served on the territory nor has the territory seen them,” the statement said.

The spokeswoman said with those proceedings now underway, it would not be appropriate for the government to comment further.

The letter between Mr Drumgold and police was also the catalyst for an ACT board of inquiry — an investigation akin to a royal commission — which was established to examine the conduct of criminal justice agencies in the case against Mr Lehrmann.

The inquiry’s final report, compiled by former Queensland judge Walter Sofronoff, was damning of Mr Drumgold, finding he generated “scandalous” and “wholly false” allegations and had engaged in “serious misconduct”.

The report also criticised Mr Drumgold’s cross-examination of Senator Reynolds as part of the criminal trial.

Mr Drumgold announced his resignation from the position of the ACT’s top prosecutor as a result and issued a statement in which he criticised aspects of the inquiry.

Mr Drumgold has since launched his own lawsuit against the ACT government in the wake of the board of inquiry. 

Senator Reynolds is also suing Brittany Higgins and her partner David Sharaz over posts they had made on social media.

Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial was abandoned due to juror misconduct and there remain no findings against him.

He is suing Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson for defamation, with the case currently being heard in the Federal Court.

The ABC has sought comment from Mr Drumgold.


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