Despite three more allegations of sexual harassment, Dyson Heydon will probably not face punishment. 

 

 

Back in June, former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon AC made headlines after allegations of sexual harassment came from six of his former associates after a High Court Inquiry found the claims of the women to be substantiated.

Today, Heydon faces three new allegations of sexual harassment, but as Paul Karp of The Guardian noted, Heydon is unlikely to face punishment, as all four complainants do not want the matters investigated further.

As Karp wrote, “On Thursday, the high court chief executive, Philippa Lynch, revealed that after reaching out to other former staff, eight former associates and one former staff member had come forward to speak to Vivienne Thom, the former inspector general of intelligence and security, who conducted the review.

“A spokesman for the high court told Guardian Australia: ‘The four individuals who made allegations to Dr Thom were very clear that, although they wanted this information to be provided to the court, they were not making formal complaints and did not expect, or want, these matters to be investigated.'”

Mr Heydon, who sat on the High Court from 2003 to 2013, has had a controversial career due in part to his outspoken criticism of “judicial activism” as well as his post-bench role heading up the 2014 Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

The former justice has vehemently denied the allegations made against him, and despite the inquiry’s findings it is important to bear in mind he innocent of the allegations until and unless he is proven to be guilty in a court of law.

In June, a High Court Inquiry found that Heydon sexually harassed six young female judges’ associates whilst on the bench.

Subsequently, a number of further allegations have been made by former ACT Law Society president Noor Blumer and a University of Canberra student, citing inappropriate behaviour.

Three of the former associates are currently seeking compensation for what they say they experienced. There are also calls to strip Mr Heydon of his Order of Australia honour.

The Chief Justice of Australia, Susan Kiefel, had the following to say about the allegations: “The findings are of extreme concern to me, my fellow Justices, our Chief Executive and the staff of the Court. We’re ashamed that this could have happened at the High Court of Australia

“We have made a sincere apology to the six women whose complaints were borne out. We know it would have been difficult to come forward. Their accounts of their experiences at the time have been believed. I have appreciated the opportunity to talk with a number of the women about their experiences and to apologise to them in person. I have also valued their insights and suggestions for change that they have shared with the Court.”

 

Heydon faces three new allegations of sexual harassment, but as Paul Karp of The Guardian noted, Heydon is unlikely to face punishment, as all four complainants do not want the matters investigated further.

 

In an infamous 2003 speech against “judicial activism” Heydon noted: ” means serving some function other than what is necessary for the decision of the particular dispute between the parties. Often the illegitimate function is the furthering of some political, moral or social programme: the law is seen not as the touchstone by which the case in hand is to be decided, but as a possible starting point or catalyst for developing a new system to solve a range of other cases.”

Heydon’s outspoken criticism of “activist judges” was received positively by the Howard government, which appointed him to the High Court soon after.

Whilst on the High Court, former Justice Heydon frequently found himself at odds with his colleagues on the bench, gaining the moniker “The Great Dissenter” by commentators.

Heydon dissented in many high-profile cases, including Plaintiff M70 case, which shut down the Gillard government’s proposed Malaysian Solution, as well as the “Plain Packaging Case” which looked into the constitutionality of Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 (Cth).

Heydon retired from the High Court in 2013.

 

Conflicted Commissioner

Soon after leaving the bench, Heydon found himself in a controversial position as Royal Commissioner for the 2014 Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

The Royal Commission was instituted by the Abbot Government following a number of high-profile cases of financial malfeasance within unions, particularly the Australian Workers Union. However, it was viewed by some commentators as being politically motivated by anti-union ideologues.

In August 2015, then Commissioner Heydon provoked calls for his recusal after accepting an invitation to deliver a law lecture at a Liberal Party fundraiser organised by party-affiliated lawyers.

This led to a number of unions putting forward applications that Heydon step down due to “apprehended bias”, claims which were ultimately rejected by the Commission.

The union inquiry was completed in 2015 and its subsequent report proved relatively inconsequential.

 

 

Jarryd Bartle contributed to this report.

 

 

 

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