Pressure is mounting on the state’s top health official to explain why he ordered lawyers to withhold an important email from the hotel’s quarantine request.
In his letter seen by NCA NewsWire, Mr. O’Donohue alleged that the conduct of Mr. Sutton’s attorneys and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in-house attorneys may have violated the 2015 Australian Lawyer Code of Conduct.
He said the behavior allegedly misled the courts or investigative boards and violated attorneys’ obligation to act honestly, not to discredit the profession and not to provide definitive statements that contradict the actual evidence.
“The alleged potential violation of the rules of professional legal behavior raises the question of whether such practices were predominant in the code of other Victorian government departments or key witnesses within the government, which will affect further evidence presented or not presented to the investigation” said O’Donohue wrote.
It comes after Professor Sutton was given seven days to issue a statement regarding the hotel’s quarantine investigation to explain conflicting evidence after it was revealed that he directed his attorneys to withhold an important email.
The senior attorney, who supports Tony Neal QC, told an extraordinary committee of inquiry meeting Tuesday that an affidavit would be served on Professor Sutton.
It was related to a chain of emails sent to Health Department officials in March indicating that private security guards had been hired to protect returning travelers to hotels in Victoria.
Professor Sutton confirmed receipt of the email.
However, when Professor Sutton appeared on the investigation, he said he had first learned that private security was being used in the Rydges at the Swanston Hotel in late May following the virus outbreak in the Rydges.
Professor Sutton has stood by his testimony.
The chief health officer was absent from the coronavirus media briefing on Friday – the fourth day in a row – when Prime Minister Daniel Andrews and DHHS test commander Jeroen Weinmar stood in front of the media instead.
When asked about Professor Sutton’s absence, the Prime Minister said Professor Sutton was doing “all sorts of work … to make sure we are ready to make announcements of restrictions on Sunday.”
“I know he will work hard. We’re all working hard to be ready to make the announcements on Sunday and I will predict I can’t be sure but I will predict he will be here tomorrow, “said Andrews.
“There are many things in his work. I’m pretty sure he’ll be here tomorrow and then you can ask him any questions. ”
The law firm MinterEllison was contacted for comment.
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