4 March 2024

ACT Government pays Senator Linda Reynolds $90,000 over 'defamatory' allegations by former DPP Drumgold

| Claire Fenwicke
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Linda Reynolds

Senator Linda Reynolds testified in the ACT trial of her former staff member Bruce Lehrmann, who had been accused of sexual assault by Brittany Higgins at Parliament House. Photo: Albert McKnight.

The ACT Government has reached a $90,000 settlement with Senator Linda Reynolds over “defamatory” allegations outlined by the Territory’s former Director of Public Prosecutions.

Ms Reynolds launched legal action against the government and former DPP Shane Drumgold SC late last year, saying she was defamed by a letter Mr Drumgold had sent to ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan.

The letter was released under freedom of information laws and subsequently widely reported in the media.

The contents of the letter contained Mr Drumgold’s concerns following the mistrial of Bruce Lehrmann, in which Senator Reynolds had testified.

It included imputations there had been political interference in the matter and that Senator Reynolds had tried to interfere with the case.

The subsequent Board of Inquiry investigation prompted by the claims in the letter found the allegations made by Mr Drumgold were made “without a proper basis” and were “false”.

“Each of the allegations was defamatory of Senator Reynolds,” the report noted.

A Justice and Community Safety spokesperson confirmed a “compromised settlement” had been formalised with Senator Reynolds last Friday (1 March).

“We accept that allegations about Senator Reynolds made by the former Director of Public Prosecutions were found by the Board of Inquiry to be defamatory,” they said.

“The settlement includes a formal apology from the Territory and retraction of the allegations contained in the letter from the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold SC.”

The government also agreed to an undertaking from acting Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Williamson SC that he will direct his staff not to further publish the allegations made against Ms Reynolds.

The $90,000 payment included $70,000 in damages and $20,000 in legal fees.

Other civil legal proceedings are still ongoing as a result of the case.

The Federal Court is yet to hand down its judgement in the defamation proceedings brought by Mr Lehrmann against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson.

Mr Lehrmann’s action against the ABC has been settled, while Ms Wilkinson won her separate action for her employer to pay her legal fees in the defamation case.

Mr Drumgold quit his position in the wake of the report’s findings, which were heavily critical of his conduct.

He has launched legal action over the findings, submitting to the ACT Supreme Court that it should either declare the entire report or the decisions made in respect of him invalid or unlawful.

Five police officers have joined the matter as defendants as they want the findings to stand.

The outcome of this matter is expected to be handed down this afternoon (4 March).

No findings were ever made against Mr Lehrmann in relation to the rape allegations from Brittany Higgins, and he has maintained his innocence.

Senator Reynolds has announced she will not recontest her senate seat at the next Federal election.

Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.

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