Inquiry finds former High Court Judge and TURC Commissioner Dyson Heydon AC QC routinely sexually harassed associates
Partial to a bit of skirt.
The man who allowed Gillard to walk away from The AWU Scandal unscathed has been outed as possessing the morals of an alley cat.
He's been found to have harassed not one or two - but six of his female 'associates'.
Here's the Chief Justice of the High Court's extraordinary statement - Kate McClymont has spoken to many of the complainants and her report follows.
Mr Heydon maintains his innocence.
A Herald investigation has also uncovered further allegations from senior legal figures of predatory behaviour by Mr Heydon, including a judge who claims that he indecently assaulted her. The women claim that Mr Heydon’s status as one of the most powerful men in the country protected him from being held to account for his actions.
The High Court inquiry was prompted by two of the judge’s former associates notifying the Chief Justice in March 2019 that they had been sexually harassed by Mr Heydon.
“We are ashamed that this could have happened at the High Court of Australia,” said Chief Justice Susan Kiefel in a statement. She confirmed that the lengthy investigation found that “the Honourable Dyson Heydon, AC, QC” harassed six former staff members.
“The findings are of extreme concern to me, my fellow justices, our chief executive and the staff of the court,” said the Chief Justice.
The Chief Justice has personally apologised to the six women, five of them Justice Heydon’s associates, saying “their accounts of their experiences at the time have been believed.”
Dyson Heydon was on the High Court bench from 2003-13 and in 2014 was appointed by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott to run the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption.
Mr Heydon denied the claims via his lawyers Speed and Stracey who issued a statement.
"In respect of the confidential inquiry and its subsequent confidential report, any allegation of predatory behaviour or breaches of the law is categorically denied by our client," the statement said.
"Our client says that if any conduct of his has caused offence, that result was inadvertent and unintended, and he apologises for any offence caused.
"We have asked the High Court to convey that directly to the associate complainants."
One of his former associates, Rachael Patterson Collins, told the Herald that Mr Heydon’s “actions had real and terrible consequences” which led her to abandon her plans to become a barrister.
Chelsea Tabart, another former associate, said she too left the law because “the culture was broken from the top down.” She felt she would not be safe “from powerful men like Mr Heydon even if I reported them.”
“Dyson Heydon was one of the most powerful men in the country,” said Josh Bornstein, the women’s lawyer. “As the independent investigation makes clear, he is also a sex pest. At the same time he was dispensing justice in the highest court in Australia’s legal system, he was [engaged in] sexual harassment.”
Vivienne Thom, the former Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, interviewed a dozen witnesses, including five former associates. Dr Thom’s report found that the evidence “demonstrates a tendency by Mr Heydon to engage in a pattern of conduct of sexual harassment” which included unwelcome touching, attempting to kiss the women and taking them into his bedroom.
A Herald investigation can reveal that Mr Heydon’s predatory behaviour was an “open secret” in legal and judicial circles. Not only did he prey on his young associates during his decade on the High Court until his mandatory retirement at 70 in 2013, other females in the profession suffered at his hands.
Mr Heydon, via his lawyers, denied "emphatically any allegation of sexual harassment or
A current judge told the Herald that Mr Heydon slid his hand between her thighs at a professional law dinner not long after he joined the High Court bench.
“He indecently assaulted me. I have no doubt it was a crime and he knew I was not consenting,” said the judge.
Indecent assault, which involves the unwanted touching of another person in a sexual manner without that person’s consent, can attract a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
Despite telling him to “Get your f**king hands off me” the judge, a barrister at the time, said Justice Heydon was too powerful to complain about. “The power imbalance is such that he is so senior…He was a giant of the profession.”
She said any such complaint could have killed the career of a female practitioner. “He was also notoriously unkind about people… If you fell foul of him you know he wouldn't think twice about telling other people how dreadful you were.”
Mr Heydon is also alleged to have indecently assaulted the then president of the ACT Law Society, Noor Blumer, at the University of Canberra Law Ball in April, 2013.
According to a statement from the university, Mr Heydon was "removed from the event and returned to his accommodation", following a complaint of "inappropriate behaviour" from a student the same night.
Ms Blumer said while she sat next to Mr Heydon at the dinner, he started “feeling up the side of my leg”. Then, on the pretext of discussing adoption law with her, he took her to an empty room where he attempted to forcibly kiss her.
Ms Blumer, who is the director of a Canberra law firm, was “upset and disgusted”. She left the ball immediately. The next day she took a lengthy contemporaneous file note of the evening, which the Herald has seen, and also notified the university.
In a statement to the Herald, Professor Murray Raff from the University of Canberra confirmed that Ms Blumer complained to him the next day “of inappropriate and unwelcome behaviour towards her at the Ball, by the retired Justice of the High Court of Australia, Dyson Heydon.”
A female student, who also attended the ball, also reported an unpleasant encounter with the judge when he commented on her breasts, she said.
Another lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described an incident following a private dinner she had with Mr Heydon when he was a High Court judge.
She said the judge had “put his hands down my pants and kissed me on the mouth” when she was in a car with him following the dinner.
A leading female member of the NSW Bar said that when the 2017 stories about the Me Too movement broke, her first thought was, “Boy, Dyson Heydon should be really worried.” The senior counsel recounted Mr Heydon inviting her to his chambers after she appeared before him during a special leave application to the High Court.
The woman described being greeted at the door by the judge who was “padding around in his socks”. All the available seats had books on them leaving only a “love seat – a little old-fashioned two seater” empty. Champagne on ice and two glasses were laid out.
She was acutely aware of “what he had in mind.” After she politely listened to him “spilling the dirt on everyone, judges and barristers alike,” she made good her escape.
The top silk wasn’t so lucky at a later encounter. Mr Heydon, who had retired from the bench and returned to the Sydney bar, invited her to his chambers to discuss a legal matter. This time he blocked her from leaving. “He was very intimidating. He is a very big guy. He was in his early 70s…but he was still a very imposing person.”
The barrister said Mr Heydon “planted himself in the doorway” and then kissed her.
Subsequently, the judge called her repeatedly. “I thought his behaviour was bordering on stalking,” she recounted. He only stopped after the barrister had a letter hand delivered to him in which she asked Mr Heydon not to contact her.
The predatory behaviour of Mr Heydon, a preeminent black-letter-law jurist and Companion of the Order of Australia, has led to complaints from women as far afield as Oxford University.
A 2015 complaint by a student that the judge had groped her in the library, brought to an end his Visiting Professorship at the prestigious UK university, where he had originally studied as a Rhodes Scholar in 1964.
In 2012, 22 year-old Chelsea Tabart was a brilliant student with a first class honours degree in Law from Sydney University, thrilled to have won a prized associateship with Justice Heydon.
An associate is a personal assistant to the judge who conducts legal research and helps review judgements. High Court associateships are granted to the most illustrious of graduates and are considered the gateway to a brilliant legal career.
On her very first day, after the office staff went out for dinner, the judge offered her a lift home, Ms Tabart told the Herald.
Ms Tabart’s 68-year-old boss poured them a glass of wine and sat down next to her on the couch. She told Dr Thom that when the judge asked her about a deformity of her finger, he responded by stroking her hand and saying: “I don’t think it’s weird, I think it’s beautiful.”
Mr Heydon then dropped her hand, moved closer to her on the couch and put his right hand on her left thigh.
Ms Tabart attempted to excuse herself and said she would get a cab home, at which point Justice Heydon offered to go with her. “You don’t know what kind of creeps are out there,” he said.
She immediately called her boyfriend and then her father, she said. She also noticed she had missed a phone call from her predecessor, Alex Eggerking, who had also been at the dinner that night.
The next day Ms Eggerking was upset with herself. She hadn’t thought she would need to warn her so quickly that the judge had a history of harassing his female associates.
She had been intending to advise Chelsea not to be alone with him, but she was concerned it would be too overwhelming to caution her on her first day.
When contacted by the investigators, Ms Eggerking disclosed that she too had been sexually harassed by Justice Heydon.
Rachael Patterson Collins started as an associate with the judge in 2005, when she was 26.
Ms Collins told Dr Thom that as a working class, conservative Catholic, she felt lonely and isolated in Canberra, excluded from the clique of the other judges’ associates. The investigation found her to be an “honest and credible witness with a clear recollection of events”.
Some time around May 2005, she confided in the judge that she was suffering from depression. That same evening there was a “chambers dinner” during which the judge typically drank heavily, she told the investigation.
After dinner, Ms Collins drove Justice Heydon home. She confided in him that she was being bullied by some of the other associates and was having a difficult time in Canberra.
He reached over and began “caressing” her hand, she said.
“Ms Collins felt alarmed and confused by Justice Heydon’s conduct,” which she saw as a sexual advance, Dr Thom reported.
“Instead of helping me, he tried to take advantage of my vulnerability and I had to leave my position early,” Ms Collins told the Herald.
It was considered unthinkable and possibly damaging to your career to quit an associateship, but Ms Collins did just that having been offered a full scholarship at an American university.
She refused Mr Heydon’s persistent invitations to have dinner with him alone to mark her departure but finally agreed to have a drink in his chambers.
He had the champagne ready, she took it and moved to the other side of his room. After commenting on her hair colour, he asked her to stand up. “Justice Heydon then stood close to her and, looking down at her, said: ‘Can I kiss you?’” the report states.
Ms Collins rebuffed him. “Maybe just on the cheek then?” he pleaded. She replied: “No! You’re married, you’re my boss. I am a practising Catholic. No.”
Justice Michael McHugh’s associate Sharona Coutts was still in the office. Ms Collins was crying as she told her what happened.
Later, when the court was sitting in Adelaide, Ms Collins told the judge she wanted to speak to him about his conduct. He said he was giving a talk and to meet him at the hotel afterwards.
Instead of going to a bar, he took her to his room. Ms Collins said how disappointed she was in his behaviour as he was a married man, a judge, a Christian and a conservative. Asked why he did this, he replied, “Because you’re beautiful.”
Ms Collins told him he couldn’t couldn’t keep doing this. “Do you have any idea how upset your wife and kids would be if they found out?” She warned him that if he kept doing it, it would eventually leak to the press and that he would look like a hypocrite.
Ms Collins thought her warning would have some impact on the judge. It didn’t, he went to harass more women.
Ms Collins praised the actions of the High Court. “Not only did the current court treat us with fairness and kindness, they’ve also taken some concrete steps to ensure this never happens again,” she said.
“The legal profession’s dirtiest and darkest secret is no more,” said Mr Bornstein, a Melbourne principal with law firm Maurice Blackburn. “His repeated sexual harassment of young women who were starting out their legal careers was and is known to many people.”