ACT top prosecutor to take leave after inquiry grilling

·2-min read

The ACT's top prosecutor has taken leave from the role after undergoing a week-long grilling over his handling of rape allegations against former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann.

Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold asked to take leave and the request was accepted, a spokeswoman for the territory government said on Thursday.

Anthony Williamson, Mr Drumgold's deputy, will act in the role until June 13.

ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said the chief prosecutor would be on leave for four weeks.

"In terms of the overall office of the director of public prosecutions, it's business as usual," he said.

Mr Drumgold has come under pressure after his appearance at the independent inquiry into the ACT justice system's handling of rape allegations against Mr Lehrmann, who was accused of raping fellow Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.

The charges against Mr Lehrmann, who denied the allegations, were dropped after an aborted trial last year.

Mr Drumgold last week told the inquiry his team had "closed ranks" against police because they believed officers had lost objectivity in the matter.

During the inquiry, he claimed police had a "passion" for the prosecution to fail and that his office felt unprecedented pressure not to proceed with a retrial.

But he walked back suggestions there had been political interference in the case.

Mr Drumgold has served as DPP since January 2019 and worked at the ACT prosecutor's office since 2002.

The territory's attorney-general said he expected Mr Drumgold would return to the role in mid-June.

Mr Rattenbury said Mr Williamson would be more than capable to fill in while Mr Drumgold was on leave.

"He's a very experienced prosecutor. He's been in his role for some time. He's well known in the office," he said.

Australian National University emerita professor Margaret Thornton said the scenario was uncommon.

"It's an unusual situation, given that the inquiry is taking place, and there is no comparable example that I am aware of," she said.

"If it were simply a case of a prosecution proceeding and the DPP became ill, for example, someone else else could step into their shoes, but this is different."