A legal bid by former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian to overturn findings she engaged in corruption will be heard as quickly as possible.
Berejiklian is challenging findings by the Independent Commission Against Corruption that she engaged in serious corrupt conduct by breaching public trust and refusing to report a secret relationship with her then-lover, Liberal MP Daryl Maguire.
During a brief hearing in the NSW Court of Appeal on Monday, Justice Julie Ward said she wanted to set down the two-day hearing as expeditiously as she could.
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“I’m conscious of delay,” she told lawyers representing Berejiklian and ICAC.
“There won’t be delay in this court.”
Delays were at the centre of controversy surrounding ICAC and its findings after the corruption watchdog took more than 18 months to publish its final report following the last public hearing.
A hearing date will be set down in February or March next year once legal counsels’ availability has been confirmed.
Former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Credit: AAP
Berejiklian has retained high-profile barrister Bret Walker SC to argue that ICAC’s findings should be set aside.
In her court summons, she said the corruption findings were “illogical or irrational” because ICAC also said there was insufficient evidence to prove the accusations to the criminal standard.
The commission stopped short of recommending criminal charges against the 53-year-old former premier, citing “formidable” obstacles to prosecution.
Berejiklian also claimed former judge Ruth McColl, who was appointed assistant commissioner to help with the inquiry, did not have the authority to prepare the ICAC report.
Originally retained as assistant commissioner until October 31, 2022, ICAC extended the time she had to work on the report as a consultant until the 688-page document was released in June this year.
Because of her change in position, McColl did not have any authority to compile the report and release it, Berejiklian’s summons argued.
On Monday, Berejiklian’s barrister Henry Cooper said the former premier had requested documents from ICAC relating to preparation of the report from the time when McColl started work as a consultant until its publication.
The commission was yet to provide the material, saying it was irrelevant to the legal challenge and claiming immunity against handing it over.
Cooper said discussions were ongoing between the parties regarding this dispute.
ICAC found Berejiklian breached public trust with her involvement in funding decisions for two proposals advocated for by Maguire, the Wagga-based Australian Clay Target Association and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music.
Between 2016 and 2018, when she was treasurer and then premier, Berejiklian was involved in approving or supporting allocations of $5.5 million for the clay shooting club and $10 million for the conservatorium.
Berejiklian has always denied the relationship amounted to a conflict of interest or that she breached public trust by failing to declare it.
Maguire faces criminal charges for his alleged involvement in a visa fraud scheme and allegedly misleading statements to ICAC over his business dealings.
Both of his matters are before the courts.
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