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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2414

(Question No. 1121)

Senator Primmer asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 7 September 1984:

(1) Did the Acting Chief Magistrate of the Australian Capital Territory, Mr Kevin Dobson, on 16 March 1984, describe the prosecution of Mr D. Witheford of the Department of Foreign Affairs as having been conceived in prejudice and born in bias on the part of some officers of that Department.

(2) Did the third and last charge remain outstanding against Mr Witheford for a further 4 months.

(3) Did Mr Nicholl, SM, determine on 17 July 1984 that a prima facie case had not been made out on the third charge.

(4) Was the prosecution of Mr Witheford not a malicious one.

(5) Was Mr Witheford suspended from duty for more than 6 months because of this prosecution.

(6) What action is proposed as a result of Mr Dobson's criticism of the prosecution and Mr Nicholl's finding on the third and last charge.

Senator Gareth Evans —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) Yes.

(2) Yes.

(3) Yes.

(4) Other than the opinion expressed by Mr Dobson in question (1) above, the evidence did not disclose that the prosecution was malicious.

(5) The question of the suspension of Mr Witheford is a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

(6) The officers referred to by Mr Dobson were officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and therefore it is not a matter for the Attorney-General. In respect of Mr Nicholl's findings, no action is proposed.