Obituary - His Honour John Thomas Hassett



It is with deep regret that the Bar Council informs members of the death yesterday morning, Wednesday 5 September 2018, of His Honour John Thomas Hassett, retired Judge of the County Court of Victoria. John was 81 years of age (born 17 May 1937).

From Bendigo, John Hassett joined the Courts Branch of the Victorian Law Department. After some years as a Court Clerk, he left to be a Law Clerk in the firm that is now Galbally & O’Bryan.  He completed Matriculation and began Long Articles. After 2 years’ full-time work and study, he decided, as told at his Welcome, that “the Law was not for anyone in his right senses” and left.

After only 6 months, he was drawn back to the Law and completed Long Articles with Ken Fraser at Gair & Brahe. He was in the last group of Long Articles students who took their Law subject courses at the University of Melbourne (before the Council of Legal Education Course at RMIT).

Soon after admission to practice, John was admitted to partnership in Gair & Brahe and established that firm’s office in Myrtleford. He was then a Partner in Walter & Hassett in the City and at Beaumaris. He was a founder, then President, of the Law Institute of Victoria South Eastern Solicitors Group; and represented the Institute on the Victorian Legal Aid Committee.

After just short of 4 years as a Solicitor, he came to the Bar and read with Neil McPhee (later QC). From his second year, he served the community of the Bar on active committees. He was a member of the Bar Council 2 years and, most significantly, a founder of the Criminal Bar Association – variously, Treasurer, Vice-Chairman and Secretary – later, honoured Life Member.

He established an extensive practice in Common Law and Crime, in Melbourne and on Circuit. He was co-author of Indictable Offences in Victoria, described as “the antipodean Archbold”; and of a landmark submission on Barristers’ Fees in Criminal Cases recommending scales in all jurisdictions. He had 2 Readers: Father Frank Brennan (son of Chief Justice Sir Gerard Brennan) and Professor Bob Williams (leading scholar, author and teacher of Criminal Law and Evidence).

He was appointed a Prosecutor for the Queen in February 1979 – scrupulously fair, he joked that he got more acquittals as a Prosecutor than he had for the Defence.

He was appointed to the County Court in May 1984 and served with distinction for more than 18 years. He served on the Executive Committee and, with Judge Strong, was a major contributor to Chief Judge Waldron’s project for the new County Court. He contributed to Judge Paul Mullaly’s Sentencing Manual (1st edition). He was “Master” to 9 young Lawyer Associates.

He was on and chaired the Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace; and represented Victorian Bishops on the National Catholic Justice Council.

Funeral Mass will be offered at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, 10 Whitehorse Road, Deepdene on Tuesday 11 September 2018 commencing at 11 am.

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