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Monday, 9 September 1996
Page: 3097

(Question No. 71)

Senator Margetts asked the Minister representing the Minister for Justice, upon notice, on 22 May 1996:

With reference to the inquest and investigation subsequent to the death of Australian Federal Police (AFP) Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester:

(1) In connection with the coronial inquest, did the Coroner receive from Mr John Doohan of Willagee, Western Australia, on 19 April 1990, an affidavit sworn by Mr Doohan, attesting to be relevant to the inquest.

(2) Was Mr Doohan's affidavit refused inclusion as evidence at the inquest as a result of a permanent suppression order by the Coroner; if so, was the Coroner's suppression order influenced by AFP or other official advice that Mr Doohan is alleged to be mentally unstable; if not, what was the basis on which the Coroner decided to issue the suppression order.

(3) Was Mr Doohan's affidavit made available to Mr David Harold Eastman and/or his legal counsel by the Coroner or his staff.

(4) Did the Coroner receive, on 9 April 1996, a further affidavit from Mr Doohan, dated 25 March 1996: (a) attesting to the truth of Mr Doohan's affidavit of April 1990; and (b) denying allegations of mental instability or history of mental instability.

(5) Did the Coroner receive, on 9 April 1996, a letter from Mr Doohan requesting the Coroner to advise him if Mr Doohan's affidavit of April 1990: (a) had been rejected as unworthy of coronial public examination; or (b) was the subject of a suppression notice; if so, for which reason or reasons.

(6) Has the Coroner responded to Mr Doohan on any of the above matters.

(7) Did the Coroner receive from the AFP a copy of, or advice of, Senator Jenkins' Senate question of June 1990 (Senate question on notice No. 72, notice given 1 June 1990) relating to the murder of Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester.

Senator Vanstone —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The relevant agencies within my portfolio have provided the following advice:

(1) On 21 November 1990 at a sitting of the inquiry open to the public, Counsel assisting the Coroner tendered an affidavit declared by Mr John William Daniel Doohan of Willagee on 17 April 1990. In his affidavit Mr Doohan reported statements made to him by a Mr Noel Sharp. The matters raised in the affidavit relevant to the death of Assistant Commissioner Winchester were investigated by the AFP. The affidavit, together with a number of other documents produced in the course of the investigation, were tendered to the Coroner. For the purposes of the inquiry, a member of the AFP reviewed the investigation. His statement was also tendered.

(2) The affidavit of Mr Doohan was received in evidence by the Coroner as exhibit 471K. The Coroner ordered the suppression from publication of names mentioned in the affidavit and other documents or any material that might tend to identify people so mentioned. The suppression order did not extend to names mentioned in the statement of the AFP member reviewing the investigation. Before making the suppression order, the Coroner heard submissions from Counsel assisting the Coroner and had the benefit of the views expressed in the statement of the reviewing AFP member. It was not put in those submissions or in that statement that Mr Doohan was mentally unstable but, rather, that the statements made by Mr Sharp were not to be believed. The Coroner accepted that submission and also expressed the view that there were reasons for disbelieving the statements made by the two persons, one of whom was Mr Doohan, which were said to corroborate the statements of Mr Sharp.

(3) When the affidavit was tendered Mr David Eastman did not appear at the inquiry either in person or by a legal representative. In about January 1991, a copy of materials tendered to the inquiry up to that time was provided to the then legal representatives of Mr Eastman. It is believed that a copy of Mr Doohan's affidavit was probably included in that material. A copy of the transcript of the proceedings from 3 July 1990 to 4 December 1990 was provided to Mr Eastman's legal representatives on 21 January 1991. This transcript included the proceedings in which the affidavit by Mr Doohan was tendered.

(4) to (6) At the time Mr Doohan's affidavit of 17 April 1990 was tendered, Counsel assisting the Coroner appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions pursuant to section 6 of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1983. However, as the function of assisting the Coroner was taken over by the Director of Public Prosecutions for the ACT prior to 1996, questions about what the Coroner received in 1996 concerning the inquiry are matters for the Attorney-General in the ACT Government.

(7) The AFP has no record of providing the Coroner with a copy of, or advice of, Senate question No. 72, notice of 1 June 1990, asked by Senator Jenkins of the then Minister for Transport and Communications and which related to the monitoring of telephone calls.