Chief Justice Susan Kiefel

The Dyson Heydon High Court of Australia sexual harassment / sexual assault cover-up. Who knew and when?

On Monday (22/6/20) former High Court judge Dyson Heydon was exposed for allegedly sexually harassing/assaulting young female staff at the High Court when he worked there from 2003 to 2013. What is obvious is that there were many people, including High Court judges, who knew what Dyson Heydon was doing and did nothing to stop it which means they were involved in a cover-up.

The most damning part of this story so far is that it was left to the ACT’s Director of Public Prosecutions to report the matter, on Tuesday, to the federal police. Given some of the allegations clearly accuse Dyson Heydon of sexual assault why didn’t someone at the High Court refer the matter to the police earlier? 

Two former High Court judges, Justice Michael McHugh and former Chief Justice Murray Gleeson, have been named as having been told of Dyson Heydon’s sexual harassment/assault of female staff but they are refusing to talk about it. But what about the other High Court judges? What did they know and when?

Some in the media are making out that the current Chief Justice of the High Court, Susan Kiefel, is some sort of hero because she had an inquiry which found that Dyson Heydon had sexually harassed staff.  She isn’t a hero and is most likely as guilty as the many others who helped cover-up Dyson Heydon’s alleged conduct and crimes. Let’s have a look at a few of the facts.

Dyson Heydon was a High Court judge from 2003 to 2013 and the SMH reports said it was well-known amongst the associates and other staff at High Court that Dyson Heydon was sexually harassing/assaulting female staff.

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel was appointed to the High Court in 2007 and made Chief Justice in January 2017. That means she was with Dyson Heydon at the High Court together from 2007 until he left in 2013 and she said nothing about his conduct. She was appointed Chief Justice in January 2017 but again did nothing until two former staff made a formal complaint to her as the SMH reported:

An “inquiry was prompted by two of the judge’s former associates notifying the Chief Justice Susan Kiefel in March 2019 that they had been sexually harassed by Mr Heydon.” (Click here to read more)

When the two women approached CJ Susan Kiefel in 2019 it really left her with no option but to have an inquiry especially with the MeToo movement pushing the issue here and around the world. And by that time the two women had also apparently approached journalists with the SMH which if Kiefel knew would have put more pressure on her to hold an inquiry.

It’s not believable that it was well-known amongst staff that Dyson Heydon was sexually harassing/assaulting staff, but Susan Kiefel knew nothing and the same can be said for other judges who served on the High Court with Heydon. For example, Justice Virginia Bell, who is also in the below picture with Justice Heydon and Justice Kiefel and is still a High Court judge, was appointed in 2009 to the High Court and she must have known about Heydon as well you would expect.

High Court of Australia judges

Of course, the other judges in the picture who are now retired would also know plenty and the only way to get to the whole truth is with a public inquiry into the High Court’s handling of the matter.

The questions Chief Justice Susan Kiefel needs to answer are when did she first become aware of Dyson Heydon’s conduct and what action did she take? Why didn’t she report the matter to the police?

There were several red flags that should have stopped Dyson Heydon ever being appointed a judge let alone a judge to the High Court. For example:

“A finding of professional negligence made against him by the NSW Supreme Court in 1999 did not prevent his appointment to the NSW Court of Appeal as a judge in 2000 by Bob Carr’s Labor government.”

“The Court of Appeal brought in interstate judges to hear Heydon’s own appeal against the professional negligence claim, and it was granted.”

and “In June 2003 The Australian Financial Review raised an eyebrow as it noted a passage the newly-appointed 59-year-old judge had written in the 1984 edition of his seminal textbook, Evidence: Cases and Materials, about evidence given by children. “Children sometimes behave in a way evil beyond their years. They may consent to sexual offences against themselves and then deny consent. They may completely invent sexual offences,” Heydon had written.”

“The AFR noted that “because the process for selecting judges for the High Court takes place in secret, it may never be known whether the government was aware of Heydon’s views”.” (Click here to read more)

There are now also reports that Dyson Heydon sexually harassed staff at the Trade Union Royal Commission in 2014/2015 which raises a couple of issues.

The first is that the current Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Ms Sarah McNaughton SC, worked at the Trade Union Royal Commission with Dyson Heydon as Senior Counsel Assisting which means that maybe she was a victim of Dyson Heydon’s alleged harassment/assault or maybe she was a witness to others being sexually harassed/assaulted. Either way, she should make a public statement on the issue as should everyone in government positions with knowledge of the issue.

Secondly, I reported on the Trade Union Royal Commission closely and spent many days there in the media room and the allegations against Dyson Heydon never leaked to the media room which to me says there must have been some fairly heavy-handed treatment of staff to make sure it didn’t leak. At the time the Unions were attacking Dyson Heydon and others working at the Royal Commission like there was no tomorrow and if the Unions had of found out it would have gone off like a nuclear bomb. 

This matter is a long way from being over. It will spread far and wide and is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to judges covering up corruption and criminal conduct by other judges.

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16 replies »

  1. Our whole system of government and justice is corrupt. Politicians can and have become very wealthy during their tenure of office. These are the people who elect the corrupt judges to do their bidding.

  2. Good article. But where’s French figure in on all of this? He was the chief during most of the time Heydon sat on the bench.

  3. The Court system and the administration of justice is falling into disrepute due to the long standing too common practice of political appointments to the bench and Administrative Tribunals often as rewards for party political promotion work or “jobs for the boys”. There is little effective process to discourage criminal or anti-social behaviour because there is no effective policing of the practices of the legal fraternity.

    Take my recent matter in the Sydney Local Court (Motor Vehicles) where two assessors, two Registrars and a District Court judge declined to read the papers which included evidence of a common law fraud that also satisfied the elements of fraud for the Crimes Act (1900) NSW.

  4. You have been on about these fraudsters for years……finally they are being exposed…… a lot more to come I suspect. Heydon looks like Count Dracula in his black robe in that photo! Funny about that.

  5. This country is a mess ! Until there is accountability nothing will improve in fact it’s actually getting worse day by day.the cover ups are out of control!

  6. They abuse each other and do nothing about it. No wonder they do nothing about the ones who are abusing our families and our communities, all of the same tribe of pirates. They receive 20,000 complaints about lawyers each year and the abuse continues. If one complains too much they turn on you make up stories and get you landed in their courts with criminal charges, not surprising coming from a gene pool of abusers. We need a Family and Community Too movement to bring these monsters down.

  7. And this collection of “learned” ?????’s are supposed to command the respect of the public I wonder what other grubby little secrets may be hidden ?

  8. What is legally deemed as sexual assault in the workplace ? Did he physically touch these accusers or did he speak words of a sexual desire or inference of a sexual nature that made them feel uncomfortable ?

  9. Hi, This might have escaped your attention. Justice Kiefel’s investigation only took place because Josh Bornstein of Maurice Blackburn approached her in March 2019. He had taken on two former Associates as clients who were seeking compensation through employment law means for their sexual harassment while in the employ of the High Court, which harassment caused them to leave the legal profession. He saw something more in this and contacted Kiefel.

    This is what Maurice Blackburn included in a media statement on the matter. Excerpt from its website –

    “The investigation was prompted after Josh Bornstein, Principal lawyer with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, wrote to the Chief Justice and the Chief Executive of the Court in March 2019 notifying them of complaints of sexual harassment against Mr Heydon, as well as raising concerns about inadequate procedures within the High Court for addressing judicial misconduct.”

    There is the possibility of Maurice Blackburn acting on a class action against the High Court (Federal Government) for its failure to have proper procedures in place to address workplace complaints, which failure has exacerbated the mental health issues’ victims have experienced. It is asking for victims to contact the firm.

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