Damning evidence today to the Atkinson-Ashbourne Select Committee from a senior police officer has confirmed that Attorney-General Michael Atkinson kept a number of documents secret from the original police inquiry, according to Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas.
Superintendent Peter Simons, who was in charge of the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) inquiry, today confirmed that key documents held by Mr Atkinson relating to the settlement of the defamation action between Mr Atkinson and Mr Ralph Clarke were not allowed to be read by investigating police officers.
Police had been investigating allegations that an offer of board positions had been made to Mr Clarke in exchange for Mr Clarke dropping defamation action against Mr Atkinson.
“Superintendent Simons has told us that Police asked Mr Atkinson on a number of occasions to allow police to read key documents but on each occasion Mr Atkinson refused permission,” Mr Lucas said today.
“Superintendent Simons made it clear that Mr Atkinson’s decision meant police could not establish the background to, and reasons for, the settlement.
“Mr Atkinson must now come out of hiding and explain why he doesn’t want anyone to see these secret documents.
“Mr Rann should also now direct Mr Atkinson to release these documents to the Select Committee.”
Other key aspects of Superintendent Simons’ evidence were:
• He was surprised and found it unacceptable that the Rann Government had not referred the corruption allegations immediately to the ACB in November 2002 when they first became aware of them
• He agreed that the inquiry was made more difficult because of the seven-month delay
• He agreed that Mr Atkinson’s own staffer Mr George Karzis disputed a key aspect of Mr Atkinson’s evidence about his meeting with Mr Ashbourne
• The only recommendation in the ACB report to the Police Commissioner on 5 August 2003 was that it ‘be forwarded to the DPP to determine if there exists sufficient evidence of any criminal offences by Michael Atkinson, Randall Ashbourne and/or Ralph Clarke.’
• Whilst police initially did not believe there was sufficient evidence to prosecute, after discussions with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) police agreed with the Office of the DPP to proceed to prosecute.