Bar Roll No: 793
It is with deep regret that the Bar Council informs members of the death of Peter Murley, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 84 years.
Peter overcame great adversity in his early years. As a child, he spent six years at the Austin hospital. He was admitted with spinal tuberculosis and spent some months in a full body cast, then contracted polio. He was discharged at the age of 11 and attended school for a year and a half before leaving to find work, including selling newspapers at the races and as a dental mechanic, having studied at RMIT.
Peter was supporting his wife and two children in the 1960s when he returned to school to complete his leaving and matric, then a law degree at the University of Melbourne. A bookmaker friend let him use his apartment as a quiet space to study.
Peter was admitted to practise in 1966 and came to the Bar the same year, where he read with the Hon Sir Ninian Stephen, then Ivor Greenwood QC. He established a thriving practice in bankruptcy and crime, later focusing on criminal trials in the County Court and Supreme Court.
Peter mentored nine readers: the Hon Justice Phillip Priest, Michael Gregurek, Stephen Marantelli, Ian Bowditch (deceased), Brian Scheid (deceased), Paul Holdenson, John Goussis, Anthony Phillips and Simon Lee.
His mentorship was sometimes unconventional but effective—Paul Holdenson recalls being required, when he was a student, to call Peter weekly in his chambers, in order to be cross-examined on his law studies and whether he was skipping classes. They later had the pleasure of appearing together on several occasions. ’Murls’ was very proud of all his readers’ achievements and took great pleasure in seeing what they had done.
Peter is remembered as kind-hearted and generous, and for his fierce advocacy style.
Peter remained in demand as an advocate for five decades, successfully defending a murder trial in recent years, even as his physical health declined. He moved to the list of retired counsel only a few months ago.
Deepest sympathies are extended to Peter’s family. At Peter’s request, there will be a private funeral.