The High Court and the Victorian Court of Appeal have this afternoon lifted suppression orders precluding disclosure of the name of Lawyer X, also known as EF and Informer 3838.
The Bar has released a media statement, which includes information we have not been able to share with our members or the public before today.
I have also sent an email to every member of the Bar this afternoon with further information. I will continue to keep members informed of developments.
I remind members and their families who may be experiencing distress as a result of these matters that the Bar funds an independently-run crisis counselling service that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, on (03) 9650 5540. For guidance in relation to ethical matters, members of the Ethics Committee are always available. Do not forget, either, to seek out support if you need it from the strength of our college, our formal and informal mentoring relationships, and our open-door policy, which of course starts with me and the other members of the Bar Council.
Welcome to our new Readers
The March 2019 Readers’ Course commenced yesterday. The latest cohort comprises 48 local readers—20 women and 28 men, with dates of admission to practice ranging from 1996 to last month. They come from a range of backgrounds including 14 former Judges’ Associates. Congratulations to them all on their superb judgment in deciding to pursue the next stage of their careers at the Victorian Bar.
Thanks, in advance, to the 140-odd members of the Bench and Bar who will be involved in training our latest advocates over the next 9 weeks or so, and to all of the mentors who have generously agreed to take on a reader for the next nine months and, of course, beyond.
Please make all of our new readers welcome as you see them around chambers.
Welcome to our Indigenous Clerkship Program participants
Four law students have commenced paid clerkship positions this week as part of the Victorian Indigenous Clerkship Program.
Teina Te Hemara from Melbourne Law School, Carly Mohamed from Monash Law School, Hayden Walker from Deakin Law School and Katelyn Jones from La Trobe Law School will have a unique opportunity to observe at close quarters life at the Bar, from our perspective as well as the view from the Bench.
Over three weeks, each clerk spends one week with a Judge of the Supreme Court, one week with a Judge of the Federal Court and one week with a practising barrister in chambers.
In the ‘Barrister week’ of the program, our clerks gain a real insight into the diversity of work at the Bar, get to know some of our members, and have the opportunity to develop enduring contacts and friendships. Of course, we hope that the clerks will, like our 48 newest readers, conclude that the Victorian Bar is the best place for them to build their careers, but the program is really about demonstrating to our clerks that they can aspire to make a difference through the practice of law.
We are delighted to have the support of the Federal Court and the Supreme Court in delivering the program. Thanks to Tim Goodwin and Neil Howard at the Bar for coordinating the program and Anne Sheehan, the Chair of the Indigenous Justice Committee, for all her work.
New Protocol to raise concerns about judicial conduct in the Children’s Court
This week, a new protocol was agreed for members of the Bar to raise concerns about judicial conduct in the Children’s Court. The Protocol is modelled on that reached with the Supreme Court of Victoria, which was an Australian first in October 2018, and the County Court of Victoria in November 2018. I expect to be able to announce corresponding Protocols with the Federal Court, the Family Court, the Federal Circuit Court and the Magistrates’ Court in coming weeks.
The Protocols provide a mechanism enabling members to raise with the President of the Bar concerns about judicial conduct they have experienced or witnessed, as an alternative to making a formal complaint to the Judicial Commission of Victoria. The Protocols reflect a shared view of the judiciary and the Bar that judicial bullying of members of counsel is unacceptable.
The options available to members of the Bar who have experienced or witnessed inappropriate judicial conduct are outlined in the Bar’s Judicial Conduct Policy. That policy, together with the Court Protocols and the appointment of two Judicial Conduct Advisers are important parts of our response to the findings in last year’s Wellbeing at the Victorian Bar report.
I am grateful to the heads of jurisdiction for their willingness to engage in an open, frank and constructive dialogue with the Bar about these difficult issues.
A busy week
This week I had the pleasure of opening the Readers’ Course and speaking at the celebration of the 2019 Indigenous Clerkship Program.
Behind the scenes, I met with His Honour Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen and the Shadow Victorian Attorney-General, the Hon Edward O’Donohue MP; chaired a special briefing session for the whole of the Bar Council; met with other members of the Executive; and continued the process of providing feedback to last year’s silk candidates.
On Tuesday, I introduced a fascinating all-day CPD session delivered by Professor James Raymond on written advocacy. Throughout the week, I participated in a number of media interviews in relation to the conviction of Cardinal George Pell, in response to queries from media outlets about how the appeal process works, suppression orders in Victoria, and how defence counsel are able to make submissions in respect of sentencing while their clients maintain their innocence and have announced their intention to appeal their guilty verdicts—all matters that may be second nature to us, but have been the subject of intense media scrutiny, and in some cases uninformed commentary, in the course of the week.
Welcomes and appointments
The Governor-General in Council has appointed Angus Stewart SC, Michael O’Bryan QC and John Snaden Judges of the Federal Court of Australia.
Details of the Melbourne ceremonial sitting welcomes will be advised when they become known.
This week, the profession welcomed Justice Jillian Williams as a judge of the Family Court of Australia.
Minal Vohra SC addressed the Court on behalf of the Victorian Bar, the Australian Bar Association and the Law Council of Australia.