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Sofronoff asks ACT chief to retract 'unethical' claims

Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS

The head of an inquiry into the prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann has called on ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr to retract suggestions that he acted unethically in releasing his report to journalists.

Lawyers representing Walter Sofronoff have written to Mr Barr rejecting criticism he made at a press conference this month, about the former Queensland judge's decision to provide copies of the report to two journalists before it was publicly released by the government.

The ACT government has previously said it was seeking legal advice if Mr Sofronoff breached the Inquiries Act.

Mr Sofronoff's lawyers urge Mr Barr to make a public statement that the inquiry chair "neither breached the terms of the statute, nor did he act unethically".

They also suggest Mr Barr could say he was now "satisfied that Mr Sofronoff performed his duties properly and fully".

The former judge released letters on Thursday showing the correspondence with the ACT government over the leaked report.

Mr Sofronoff wrote that although he provided embargoed copies, one of the journalists later contacted him to say she had received another copy from another source and was at liberty to publish it.

"I have no reason to believe that she was lying to me," his letter reads.

"I have not had my trust betrayed nor have I had any reason to be disappointed.

"The outcome of this process of professional engagement with journalists has been that, on the whole, stories about the inquiry have been on point and informative."

In response to questions from Mr Barr about the disclosure of the report, Mr Sofronoff defended his decision to provide copies to the journalists.

Mr Sofronoff's letter reads: "You have asked me "under what authority where (sic) those copies provided."

"The direct and succinct answer to that question is that I furnished those copies under my authority as chair of the inquiry."

The inquiry chaired by Mr Sofronoff examined accusations from police and prosecutors about each other's conduct during Mr Lehrmann's rape trial.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins accused Mr Lehrmann, her ex-colleague, of raping her inside a ministerial office at Parliament House after a night out in 2019.

Mr Lehrmann has always denied the allegation.

In October 2022, Mr Lehrmann faced a criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court, but juror misconduct derailed the proceedings and the trial was discontinued.

The ACT's outgoing top prosecutor Shane Drumgold dropped the prosecution against Mr Lehrmann, fearing the impact of a second trial on Ms Higgins' mental health.

Mr Drumgold is taking legal action against the inquiry.

He resigned as director of public prosecutions in August after the inquiry made adverse findings against him.