Mr Murray Farquhar, the former NSW Chief Stipendiary Magistrate was sentenced to 4 years jail in 1985. It wasn’t all bad news, with good behaviour he was out in 2 1/2 years. And to the best of my knowledge he was the first judicial officer in Australia to be sent to jail.
Murray Farquhar was jailed for attempting to pervert the course of justice allegedly on the direction of the then Premier Neville Wran. Yes, this did happen over 30 years ago but exactly the same thing is happening now, just different players. For example ACT Chief Magistrate Ron Cahill resigned in disgrace at the end of 2009 when a judicial enquiry was set up to investigate Mr Cahill for attempting to pervert the course of justice. The enquiry was subsequently abandoned when Mr Cahill resigned.
But back to Mr Farquhar. His criminal conduct that led to him being jailed came to light in an episode of the ABC Four Corners television program titled “The Big League” in 1983 which was meant to be about corruption in Rugby League football. But led to the uncovering of charges against Kevin Humphries, the then chairman of the Australian Rugby League (ARL), for fraud being dismissed in 1977 in a dodgy manner.
A lot of the background but not all comes from an online book by Evan Whitton with the links at “The Kevin Humphreys Affair” and “Farquhar: Where the Government Went Wrong“. The show “The Big League” is nowhere to be found unfortunately.
In 1977 Kevin Humphries was charged with fraud after being alleged to have stolen money from the Balmain Leagues club of which he was also Secretary-Manager. Initially the investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Clarence Robert Frodsham on direction of the Police Commissioner Frederick John (Slippery) Hanson, at the time was told not to charge Kevin Humphries. This seems to have happened after numerous meetings between the police commissioner and also with the Premier Neville Wran being involved in the discussions. Neville Wran was also the Minister for Police.
When the Police Commissioner (Slippery) Hansen resigned a few weeks later, Detective Sergeant Frodsham charged Kevin Humphries, so now it was up to Murray Farquhar to take care of business.
“The case was listed for hearing on 11 and 12 August 1977, and Wran’s office was advised of this on 16 June.”
On the first day of the hearing this is what is alleged to have happened:
“At about the same time, 9.30 am, a group of magistrates, including Farquhar and Kevin Waller, were in the chambers of Magistrate Kevin Webb at the Central Court of Petty Session in Liverpool Street.”
“Farquhar’s mistress and secretary, Mrs. Vincenza D’Agostino, came to the door and, according to Waller, said to Farquhar: ‘The Premier is on the phone’. Farquhar left. Street, who said Waller ‘was an entirely credit-worthy witness’, found that his recollection of the words ‘the Premier’ being used was wrong.”
“Farquhar then went to Abood’s room and spoke to Lewer. According to Lewer, the conversation went like this:
‘Who have you got on the Humphreys case?’ ‘Hammond.’
‘Get him off it. He’s a policeman. Who else have you?’ ‘Waller.’
‘He’s just as bad.’
‘Is that an instruction?’ Yes’.
Lewer offered to do the case himself, but Farquhar said he couldn’t spare him, and went on: ‘We can’t talk here; come to my room’. When they got there. according to Lewer, Farquhar said; ‘Look, the Premier’s just been on the phone. These matters aren’t very important. They all do it’. (Or, ‘They do it in all the clubs’, or words very close to that.) ‘He doesn’t want Humphreys committed. Who else is there?’
I don’t know; I’ll have to look in the diary.’
Abood bought the diary round. Lewer said Jones was available. Farquhar said: ‘He’ll do.’
At about 9.55 am, the magistrates went to Farquhar’s chambers to hear the allocations. As they were leaving, Farquhar asked Kevin Willson (so spelled) Jones to stay behind. According to Jones, Farquhar said, when they were alone: ‘The Premier’s contacted me. He wants Kevin Humphreys discharged’. Jones said nothing, and returned to the chambers he occupied with Waller. According to Waller, Jones said: ‘You will never guess what’s happened.’
‘The chairman’s just told me that Wran’s been on the phone and the Government has no interest in seeing Kevin Humphreys committed for trial in this case.’
‘Stuff Wran’, Waller said. ‘Just do the case.’ He added, in what appears to be a reference to the no-bill system: ‘If they want to pull it out, let them do it up there.’
To cut a long story short on the 12th of August 1977 Magistrate Kevin Willson Jones dismissed the charges. (Click here to read the full article)
In 1983 “The Big League” episode of Four Corners went to air on the ABC.
Neville Wran was avoiding doing anything except to launch defamation proceedings against the ABC. Murray Farquhar also announced he had launched defamation proceedings against the ABC. Obviously Mr Farquhar’s defamation proceedings did not go far as he ended up in jail. And Neville Wran settled out of court.
Only when the federal Senator Donald Chipp, leader of the Australian Democrats started pushing for a federal senate enquiry into the NSW corruption, did Premier Neville Wran act.
Wran set up the Street Royal Commission which was unusual in a the number ways. The main one being that the Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court, Sir Laurence Street headed the Royal Commission. There was a clear conflict of interest at the very least from a separation of powers viewpoint. Street should have never taken the role. Neville Wran made sure the Royal Commission had very limited terms of reference as he clearly did not want it digging too far, it would only focus on what Farquhar did on or about 11 August 1977.
The reality is that the corruption and Royal Commission would never had come about without the media focus. Neville Wran and the rest would have been happy to keep it under the carpet.
Some other things worth a mention are:
1. Murray Farquhar’s criminal conduct and connections were well and truly known long before 1983 but Wran did nothing.
2. Murray Farquhar was caught out trying to pervert the course of justice in early 1977 in another case known as the Sanky case. (Click here to read) Neville Wran took no action
3. In 1978 Murray Farquhar was photographed with the well-known underworld figure George Freeman at the horse races. Neville Wran took no action.
4. In his last case before retiring in 1979 he heard a drug case which “Roy Bowers Cessna, who was accused of being involved in an importation of marijuana originally valued by police at $1.5 million” “Farquhar’s decision on 24 May 1979, to give Cessna a bond was the subject of discussion among police officers and in the public prints.” Wran took no action.
5. The former state and federal MP Laurie Brereton appeared before Murray Farquhar in the mid 1970’s on bribery and conspiracy charges but Farquhar through the case out on technical grounds even though there were four witnesses who said Brereton tried to bribe them.
6. The Corrective Services Minister in Neville Wran’s government, Rex Jackson, was jailed in 1987 for accepting bribes for the early release of prisoners. Seems both sides of the fence were covered by Wran’s government.
7. Neville Wran was Chairman of the Lionel Murphy Foundation from 1986 to 1991. Lionel Murphy was a High Court judge who was also found to have attempted to pervert the course of justice. On appeal he won of course and the subsequent retrial dismissed the charges. But in 1985 a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate Mr Murphy but never went ahead as Murphy announced that he was dying of untreatable cancer. He died in 1986.
8. Murray Farquhar died in 1993 while facing criminal charges of trying to steal gold said to have been squirreled away by deposed Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos. He died of a heart attack before the end of the trial.
9. Neville Wran and his family have been fighting over money in the last few months. Malcolm Turnbull federal MP who has been a friend of Mr Wran for the past 30 years and has been appointed an enduring guardian of Mr Wran recently. “A deed of enduring guardianship is a form of “living will” to be used if a person loses capacity to make decisions about where they live and what medical care they might need.” (Click here to read more)
The thing about Murray Farquhar is that a wide-ranging in-depth Royal Commission should have been set up either by the state or federal governments. Neither had the ticker to do so because once they went digging it would have undoubtedly led back to both in one way or another and they knew that.
Not much has changed. The same corruption is happening in the courts now. I have already done posts on Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe and he is up to his neck in corruption there. (Click here to read) And it was happening under Chief Justice Spigelman of the NSW Supreme Court until he retired earlier this year (click here to read the post) and Chief Justice Michael Black of the Federal Court of Australia until his retirement in 2010 who also gets mentioned a number of times on this site.
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Categories: Magistrate Murray Farquhar