ADDRESS AT THE WELCOME ON MONDAY 5 OCTOBER 2015 TO HIS HONOUR CHIEF JUDGE PETER KIDD ON HIS APPOINTMENT TO THE COUNTY COURT BY JAMES W S PETERS QC, PRESIDENT OF THE VICTORIAN BAR
May it please the Court.
On behalf of the Victorian Bar I am delighted to congratulate Your Honour Chief Judge Kidd on your appointment as the Chief Judge of this Court.
Your Honour has excelled in the practice of Law. The State of Victoria has secured an outstanding leader of this Court.
Having graduated in Law from the University of Adelaide, you worked as an Articled Clerk then as a Solicitor at Mallesons Stephen Jaques; in a little over 4 years at the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, you achieved meteoric promotion to Principal Legal Officer; at the Independent Bar you appeared in many difficult and complex criminal trials from the outset; you have served as an International War Crimes Prosecutor; and you have been an outstanding Victorian Crown Prosecutor and Senior Crown Prosecutor.
Your Honour is from Adelaide. You were educated at Prince Alfred College and at the University of Adelaide.
Your Honour came to the Bar in the September 1995 and read with Damien Maguire. You were an immediate success.
Your very first brief, straight out of the Readers Course, was to prosecute – the massive corruption/conspiracy-to-pervert-the-course-of-Justice trial of Bruno Grollo and Others in the County Court.
You were led by the late Martin Shannon QC and appeared with Damien Maguire. Heliotis QC and Walmsley represented Grollo; Dunn QC and Greg Lyon for a second co-accused and Tovey for a third.
The trial ran about a year – closings and the Judge’s charge alone ran for two months. Ross on Crime mentions it as one of the longest criminal trials in Victoria.
With a few exceptions, you always prosecuted. You took hard cases and you did them very well.
As junior to Graeme Hicks (now Judge Hicks), Your Honour prosecuted the Bega Schoolgirls abduction, rape and murder trial in the Supreme Court and in the Court of Appeal.
The facts were vile; it was the type of case that inflicts lasting emotional damage on Judges, Counsel and solicitors. It was one of the worst murder cases in Victorian history
Throughout this case, Your Honour was “of soft voice; and of steely resolve”
Expert evidence was called by the defence about the fibres in the ropes used by the perpetrators. Your Honour swiftly made yourself into a “world expert” on fibres in ropes. You demolished the expert evidence.
You also appeared in the high profile prosecution of the murders of Police Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller by Bandali Debs and Jason Roberts. You were led by Jeremy Rapke QC. Your Honour successfully argued the admissibility of the similar fact evidence an area in which you are acknowledged master.
As part of the prosecution team, Your Honour was awarded the Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police’s Commendation for your work in that case – an award previously limited to members of Victoria Police.
With Peter Clark S.C., Your Honour was Counsel Assisting the HIH Insurance Limited Taskforce established by ASIC after the disasterous HIH collapse. It was a massive endeavour of about 100 people – lawyers, forensic experts, police in Sydney.
Your Honour commuted for about the first year – and then got a flat and moved your family up to Sydney.
The Task Force was hugely effective and successful – in large part, because of its leadership of Peter Clark and Your Honour. Many of the HIH executives were later prosecuted and went to jail.
Your Honour then took your family to Switzerland and undertook the LL M at the University of Geneva, graduating with distinction.
You were then appointed an International Prosecutor of the War Crimes Chamber of the State Court of Bosnia Herzegovina in Sarajevo.
You were assigned to prosecute, as lead counsel, the Omarska and Keraterm concentration camps case – in particular, the Commander and guard shift leaders.
That case ran nearly two years.
There were security concerns – and you and your family were advised to go about your lives “normally”.
“Normally”, is an interesting word. One day Your Honour went shopping for food you were shadowed by two imposing security officers – heavily armed. The armament was not always effectively concealed – occasionally peeking out from under their coats.
You wanted “chick peas” for a dinner party. You couldn’t find them. One of your “minders” became impatient and pointed out what he claimed to be chick peas. You did not agree. A heated argument followed. Onlookers gasped as the argument escalated and your minder’s coat shifted to reveal glimpses of his “concealed” armament. Perhaps it is “normal” for Your Honour to argue heatedly with agitated, armed man - even about the dinner menu!
In early November 2008, Your Honour transferred back to the Victorian Practising List.
On the 30th of January 2009, Your Honour became a Victorian Crown Prosecutor.
You took Silk in 2011 and became a Senior Crown Prosecutor.
Your Honour was Senior Counsel in many high profit cases including Tony Mokbel and many of his co-accused in drug-trafficking and obstruction of Justice charges.
Everyone who has worked with Your Honour says that Your Honour invites – and values – the contributions of your team. Your Honour is open to discussing and explaining your views to the team. It is a hallmark of Your Honour that you often incorporate their approach work where appropriate.
Your Honour does have some failings. Aristotle said “virtue lies in the mean of two extremes”. Intense concentration and singlemindedness is one thing, but conversations in chambers like the following are another.
As 1:00pm; 1:15; 1:30 tick by in chambers, a junior will suggest lunch is needed. “Lunch?” you sometimes say “You need lunch??” –– “Oh yes, of course – we’ll take a break.”
My spies also deny that Your Honour is all work and no play. You are known to, perhaps once or twice a year, to exhibit the qualities of what is, I believe, known as a “stayer”. After the Criminal Bar Dinner at Mateos, you were seen at another Bohemian haunt in Brunswick Street “rocking-on” with congenial professional colleagues.
All admire Your Honour’s extraordinary energy – not just in your work, but in your recreation: active holidays to interesting places – doing an intensive French language course in Canada before visiting West Africa; skiing (recently in Japan and in the Dolomites); and swimming.
And you’ll take a shot at anything – one colleague says Your Honour’s golf swing is reminiscent of “Mr Gadget meets Mr Bean”. I should say that for the correct price, I am willing to disclose the source of that quote!
However, returning to your work as a Senior Crown Prosecutor, Your Honour was a member of the Appeal Unit. You did more appellate work than anything else.
There is complete unanimity on the Court of Appeal that Your Honour is regarded as having been, “exemplary as Senior Counsel for the Director”.
Always a Master of the facts; with a sound understanding of law and legal principle, your written and oral arguments were always clearly concisely and articulately put.
Above all, Your Honour is regarded as a model of fairness and commonsense. Court of Appeal judgments not uncommonly refer to Your Honour’s “customary fairness”.
Your Honour’s Commission is to age 70. I note that Your Honour’s 50th birthday was yesterday.
I also note that Your Honour is an acknowledged expert on the Sentencing Amendment (Baseline Sentences) Act 2014. 20 years as Chief Judge will approach the 25 years baseline sentence for murder.
This Court is indeed fortunate to have such an outstanding member of the Victorian Bar and a leader who understands:
(a) the importance of an independent Bar to the administration of justice; and
(b) the difficult and demanding work of the members of this Court , including the personal toll that tragic cases can exact on Judges, counsel and solicitors.
On behalf of the Victorian Bar, I wish Your Honour joy in your appointment, and long, satisfying and distinguished service as the Chief Judge of this Court.
May it please the Court.