Dyson Heydon, retired High Court Judge, and the cases of sexual harassment and predation.
Dyson Heydon was respected and acknowledged as a legal purist. His name is synonymous with ‘black- letter law’ conservatism, the principle that legal precedent should be strictly followed.
The High Court judge considered himself to be a committed Christian and has spoken deridingly of the ‘modern elites’ who ‘do not feel gratitude to Almighty God for their entitlements and rights.’(McClymont and Maley, 2020). He considered himself a religious conservative, a man who regretted the lessening of adherence to high moral standards. Haydon spoke at the Australian Catholic University in 2017 arguing that there was ‘less adherence to a strict morality’, and in the same speech lamenting a ‘massive change in courtesy, civility and mutual respect’.
This is the former High Court judge who has now been found by an independent inquiry to have sexually harassed six young female associates. It is also believed that investigations have uncovered further allegations from senior legal figures.
The lengthy investigation was prompted by two of the young women associates informing the Chief Justice Susan Kiefel that they had been sexually harassed by Heydon when working with him as his associate. This is a normally highly sort after and desirable position for a young lawyer at the beginning of her career. Three of those former associates have left the law as a result of their experiences at the hands of the former High Court judge.
Chief Justice Kiefel has personally apologised to the six women, five of whom worked for the judge.
A High Court judge is in an extremely powerful position. Heydon was accused of unwelcome touching of the women, attempting to kiss them, and taking them into his bedroom. The power imbalance between judge and associates is acute. His predatory behaviour was considered an ‘open secret’ in both legal and judicial circles.
The former judge has criticised the inquiry, claiming it had no statutory powers of investigation and of administering affirmations or oaths. The inquiry was managed by an independent public servant, Dr. Vivienne Thom, former Inspector- General of Intelligence and Security, at the request of Chief Justice Kiefel. A dozen witnesses were interviewed, and all had similar accounts of predatory behaviour by the judge. Dr. Thom found the witnesses to be credible and honest.
Chief Justice Susan Kiefel said of the witnesses” Their accounts of their experiences at the time have been believed’.
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