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Cunneen under fire from royal commission

Top NSW prosecutor Margaret Cunneen is fighting a war on two fronts following a damning royal commission submission on her handling of swimming coach Scott Volkers’ sex abuse case.

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Ms Cunneen, who is currently seeking an injunction against an ICAC inquiry examining allegations she perverted the course of justice, has come under scrutiny at the federal child sex abuse commission for her 2004 advice to Queensland’s Director of Public Prosecutions.

Ms Cunneen said there was insufficient new evidence to justify recharging Volkers, months after authorities dropped charges against him relating to the alleged abuse of three former students in the 1980s.

Senior counsel assisting the royal commission, Gail Furness, has questioned Ms Cunneen’s impartiality over the case.

“Ms Cunneen’s evidence that it did not reflect her personal views should not be accepted,” Ms Furness wrote in her submission.

“Ms Cunneen’s advice lacked balance in that it did not assess the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the prosecution cases.

“Ms Cunneen’s reasoning process as set out in her advice was flawed.”

The submission was made public on Friday only hours after Ms Cunneen’s legal battle against the ICAC was pushed back to Monday.

She is seeking to stop the ICAC from probing claims she and her son Stephen Wyllie told his girlfriend Sophia Tilley to fake chest pains to avoid a breath test after a car crash in May.

Justice Cliff Hoeben will hand down his decision on the matter on Monday afternoon in the Supreme Court, with any ICAC inquiry into Ms Cunneen to start on Tuesday morning at the earliest.

Ms Cunneen’s barrister Arthur Moses SC has previously attacked the ICAC’s pursuit of the deputy senior crown prosecutor, saying the watchdog has gone beyond its jurisdiction.

But ICAC’s barrister Jeremy Kirk SC says it had a duty to investigate allegations Ms Cunneen perverted the course of justice because she is a public official.

Meanwhile, the State of NSW has argued against adverse findings for Ms Cunneen in its submission to the royal commission.

“Ms Cunneen has more experience in appearing for the prosecution in criminal trials of allegations involving child sexual assault than any other relevant witness involved in this case study of the Royal Commission,” lawyers for NSW said.

“Her views about matters such as what things might be expected to be raised by competent defence counsel, and what matters might trouble a jury are entitled to be accorded significant weight.”

In a show of support by her colleagues, 55-year-old Ms Cunneen was elected to the Bar Association’s governing body, the Bar Council, this week with the second-highest number of votes.

She has been involved in the prosecution of high-profile offenders during her career, including the infamous gang rapist Bilal Skaf and pedophile Robert “Dolly” Dunn.

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