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A former judge held ‘apprehended bias’ while at the helm of a public probe into the way Bruce Lehrmann’s rape trial was handled, a judge has ruled.

Shane Drumgold, the former ACT Director of Public Prosecutions, sued the ACT government and a Board of Inquiry over a damning report about his conduct during the prosecution of Mr Lehrmann.

Mr Drumgold himself called for the public inquiry because he believed ‘political forces’ stopped Australian Federal Police from investigating Brittany Higgins‘ rape allegations properly.

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

Mr Sofronoff found that Mr Drumgold had engaged in serious malpractice and unethical behaviour, saying he treated criminal litigation as a ‘poker game’ in which the prosecutor could ‘hide all the cards’.

Mr Drumgold launched legal proceedings claiming Mr Sofronoff displayed bias during the inquiry, largely due to his communications with Janet Albrechtsen – a columnist with The Australian.

On Monday, Acting Justice Stephen Kaye ruled that Mr Sofronoff’s communications with Ms Albrechtsen before and during the inquiry ‘was such that a fair-minded lay observer’ to conclude he was influenced by her articles.

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

The Board of Inquiry was launched after ACT DPP Shane Drumgold (pictured) claimed there was political interference in the investigation into Mr Lehrmann

Mr Drumgold’s lawyer Dan O’Gorman had told the ACT Supreme Court during a three-day hearing in February that Ms Albrechtsen’s pieces were ‘negative’ and that she ‘poisoned’ Mr Sofronoff’s mind.

The court heard Mr Sofronoff and Ms Albrechtsen exchanged 269 communications across about 169 days since she first made contact with him in February last year.

They also had a private lunch together in Queensland.

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

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

Of these, 55 were to people from The Australian – predominantly Ms Albrechtsen – totalling seven-and-a-half hours.

During the month-long Board of Inquiry, Mr Sofronoff made ten 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-minded observer would wonder why there was any need for private engagement with the media during the inquiry into Mr Lehrmann’s trial.

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

It contained a raft of findings against him, including that he knowingly misled the territory’s Chief Justice at trial and lost objectivity. 

Mr Drumgold’s last day in office was supposed to be September 1, even though he has been on paid medical leave since May when he spent five days being grilled in the witness box during the inquiry.

He has reportedly continued to receive a weekly salary of $9,266.

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