Andrew L. Urban
It is delivered today, July 31, 2023, but the ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr “currently intends” to release some or all of the Sofronoff inquiry report into the handling of the Brittany Higgins rape allegations against Bruce Lehrmann and the abandoned trial, at the end of August. No reasons are given. None would be acceptable.
Bruce Lehrmann can not be exonerated by the report’s findings, as he has not been found guilty – except perhaps in the court of public opinion, where the presumption of innocence is not always recognised. He was also deprived of the opportunity of being found not guilty. But Commissioner Sofronoff’s report may well reveal in its ugly entirety how unfairly he has been treated by the process itself and some of the participants. This further delay in setting the record straight about why and how that came to pass is a further injustice. His reputation may be at least partly salvaged by the findings.
Barr “may” provide an interim response before a final response that “may take several months”. That’s not good enough either. The many people involved, not least the two central characters, deserve better than that. The public deserves better than that. The inquiry was titled Board of Inquiry Criminal Justice System; it now seems that another inquiry is called for into the ACT political system.
The inquiry explored the messy scandal that involved political leaders, senior police, the DPP, high profile media and the courts, with the complainant and the accused at the centre. Delaying the release of the findings casts a shadow over the ACT Government’s sincerity about transparency. We are entitled to ask: what’s being kept from the public and why?
Tellingly, Chief Minister Barr only announced the delay after seeing the report.
Disclosure: Andrew L. Urban has been invited to work with Bruce Lehrmann on his book about the scandal.