Media Release – Victorian Bar offers reward for stolen historic cigarette case


A 128-year-old silver cigarette case has been stolen and Victoria’s barristers want it back!

In fact, the Victorian Bar is offering a $2000 reward for the return of the slightly battered piece of memorabilia. The case itself is not valuable — but to the local legal fraternity, it has become an icon of selfless devotion to duty.

It was stolen from a locked display cabinet in the foyer of Owen Dixon Chambers in Williams Street in March. Police quickly caught the thief a few streets away, but the case had disappeared.

President of the Victorian Bar, Róisín Annesley QC, said that the cigarette case embodies a tradition that has existed for more than a century. “It recognises barristers who have worked pro bono for worthy causes,” she said.

The case was first given to Herbert Bryant by fellow barrister Walter Coldham in 1895.

It was accompanied by a note saying: “In recognition of your readiness to uphold the highest traditions of an advocate and to appear without fee for those unable otherwise to afford your services”.

Since then it has been intermittently handed down from one barrister to another who is regarded as a worthy recipient — and through this long-standing tradition, the case has come to embody the pro bono work of Victorian barristers.

It is inscribed with the names of some of the most respected of the profession including: Herbert Bryant 1895, Eugene Gorman 1924, John Barry 1935, John Nimmo 1962, Richard McGarvie 1975, Frank Vincent 1983, Dyson Hore-Lacey 1995, Julian Burnside 2005, Julian McMahon 2015.

Julian Burnside AO QC received the cigarette case for fighting for the rights of refugees, and Julian McMahon AC SC for defending Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan and his efforts in Indonesia, eventually unsuccessful, to save them from the death penalty.

Ms Annesley said it is believed the thief dropped or disposed of the cigarette case somewhere in the central CBD. “We are offering a substantial reward. The cigarette case is of little value to anyone else but the Victorian Bar,” she said.

Anyone with information about the case should contact the Victorian Bar on 9225 6746 or

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