Judge 'not pressured' to quit Mulrunji review

December 27, 2006

The Queensland government says it didn't pressure a retired judge to withdraw from a review into the decision not to charge a police officer over the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee.

Attorney-General Kerry Shine today announced retired chief judge of the District Court, Pat Shanahan, had decided not to proceed with the review of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Leanne Clare's decision not to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over Mulrunji's death in custody at Palm Island in November 2004.

Mr Shanahan came under mounting pressure to abandon the review after it was revealed he was on a selection panel that appointed Ms Clare as DPP in 1999.

Ms Clare had insisted she would not seek an external review of her decision because "the evidence does not support a prosecution'' - despite state deputy coroner Christine Clements' ruling in September last year that Senior Sergeant Hurley caused Mulrunji's death.

"I have to announce that I received a phone call from former chief judge Pat Shanahan this morning and he has advised me as follows: 'I have decided, after an examination of all factors, to inform you that I will not be proceeding with the review','' Mr Shine told reporters in Brisbane.

Mr Shine said Mr Shanahan was "definitely not'' pressured by the government to quit.

"What I told him was I had confidence in him ... if he wanted to stay on, it would have been with our support,'' he said.
"His decision to pull out was his entirely.''
Mr Shine said while the government didn't accept there was a conflict of interest, the appointment could have been handled differently in hindsight.

"In the light of subsequent comment over the ... last couple of days, from a political point of view you'd probably do it differently but certainly from a legal point of view ... I had full confidence in the judge and I still do,'' Mr Shine said.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie described Mr Shanahan as one of the most well-regarded judges in Queensland but also said his decision was "in a sense the best outcome for everybody''.

''(Mr Shanahan) wants the judgment to be received by everybody ... from the government's point of view it's better that we have a person who is appointed by the crown solicitor without any of that controversy,'' Mr Beattie said.

"I think (his decision) gives some indication of his integrity... we were very comfortable about him being the appropriate person.''

Mr Shine said he had directed Crown Prosecutor Conrad Lohe to find a replacement for Mr Shanahan as quickly as possible to ensure the review's results could be presented to parliament in February.

Mr Shanahan was the chief judge of the Brisbane District Court for five years and a District Court judge for 26 years.