There were further fiery exchanges between the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Rann Government at today’s hearing of the Legislative Council inquiry into the Atkinson/Ashbourne affair, according to Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas.
“Rann Government Minister Paul Holloway tried to further antagonise Mr Stephen Pallaras QC through a series of questions and statements which sought to undermine the integrity of the DPP’s office,” Mr Lucas said today.
“In fact, Mr Pallaras accused Mr Holloway of making ‘pathetic’ comments and trying to ‘make cheap political points’ rather than addressing the real issues.
“Mr Pallaras’ evidence today – in public and ‘in camera’ sessions – raised very serious matters that will have to be considered further by this Select Committee.
“Mr Pallaras strongly rejected key aspects of claims made by Mr Rann’s senior legal adviser Nick Alexandrides in a letter to Mr Holloway.
“These claims relate to telephone conversations between Mr Alexandrides and a prosecutor in the Randall Ashbourne political corruption trial.
“When Mr Pallaras was asked whether he agreed with a claim by Mr Alexandrides that ‘nothing he said or did could reasonably give rise to a perception of interference’ Mr Pallaras asked to give ‘in camera’ evidence to the committee.
“When further asked why he believed Mr Alexandrides ‘appears to totally misunderstand his role’ Mr Pallaras said if he was to give a view on Mr Alexandrides’ conduct he would prefer to go ‘in camera’.”
The seriousness of this issue as viewed by Mr Pallaras is amply demonstrated in the following transcript from today’s hearing:
THE HON. R.I. LUCAS: In your evidence two weeks ago, on page 33 of the transcript of evidence in answer to a question you said:
What we are talking about is the manner in which the Premier’s adviser attempted to improperly influence my prosecutor.
I want to clarify as a non lawyer that if someone—and I am not suggesting someone has—had improperly influenced a prosecutor, what is the offence? Is that an offence under the Criminal
Law Consolidation Act? What is the offence that a person would be guilty of if they had been improperly influencing a prosecutor?
MR PALLARAS: There is an enormous range to answer your question. One would need to look at the specific words said to see whether or not a criminal threat was made. One would need to see whether or not the actions constituted the offence of blackmail, if that fact supported it. One would need to consider the offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice, if the facts supported it. It really depends on the factual scenario, but it covers a wide range.
THE HON. R.I. LUCAS: Whilst there is no concluded view in relation to this, but in your view this issue of improperly influencing a prosecutor, given the range of potential criminal offences that you would consider, is a very serious issue.
MR PALLARAS: I took it as a serious issue, yes, I did. I make no apologies for that.
“Mr Pallaras also told the committee that the Premier’s edict that all future communications with his office had to be in writing was ‘unrealistic in the extreme’,” Mr Lucas said.
“It is clear that the Premier’s edict was a typical knee-jerk media response which is unworkable in practice and needs now to be withdrawn if the DPP’s office is going to be able to undertake the task it is required to undertake.”