Former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon, was appointed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the High Court of Australia in 2003. Heydon remained at the bench until his mandatory retirement in 2013.
As a High Court Justice, Heydon’s role was to interpret and apply the law of Australia. He would decide cases of special Federal significance, challenges to the constitutional validity of laws and he would hear appeals from Federal, State and Territory Courts.
Heydon as a High Court Justice, occupied an extraordinary, status-based position. He was held to the highest integrity within the legal profession and was trusted to be a fit and proper person.
However, an independent inquiry commissioned by the High Court of Australia has found that Heydon abused this trust, and sexually harassed six former Judges’ Associates.
Heydon denies the claims. Through his lawyers he states;
“Any allegation of predatory behaviour or breaches of the law is categorically denied by our client. If any conduct of his has caused offence, that result was inadvertent and unintended, and he apologises for any offence caused.”
However, within legal profession, Heydon’s predatory behaviour was an “open secret”.
A Judge-Associate relationship is both a professional and personal one. In addition to being their Associate’s boss and mentor, Judges and Associates, in their respective roles, will spend hours alone together. They are expected to travel together, and Associates are often expected to attend social functions with the Judge.
Heydon knowingly abused the imbalance of power he had with his Associates on multiple different occasions spanning a decade.
It is claimed that the legal profession turned a blind eye, in order to justify the level of power Heydon wielded as a Justice of the High Court of Australia.
Six brave women have now shattered this justification.
The allegations against Heydon demonstrate a pressing need for a deep cultural change within the legal profession.
At the Federal level in Australia, there is currently no independent regulatory mechanism to deal with complaints that are made against Judges.
No one is above the law, therefore there must be an independent mechanism for complaints that extend to cover the conduct of former Judges, who continue to enjoy an elevated status within the legal profession.