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‘Visceral fear’: Lawyers threaten Heydon with Human Rights Commission

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Mr Heydon’s alleged repeated harassment of six female associates has shocked all tiers of the legal profession and brought to light a pattern of predatory behaviour uncovered by an independent inquiry conducted by the High Court of Australia.

Alleged victims must make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the body responsible for investigating alleged infringements of Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation by Commonwealth officers, before lodging legal action.

It is at the discretion of the commission to accept complaints older than six months and they are under no obligation to consider accusations against Mr Heydon, some of which are up to 10 years old.

Mr Heydon, who is one of the nation’s pre-eminent legal minds, sexually harassed six young female associates over the course of several years, an independent inquiry by the court found.

An investigation by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald also uncovered further allegations from senior legal figures of predatory behaviour by Mr Heydon, including a judge who claims that he indecently assaulted her.

Josh Bornstein, principal lawyer at Maurice Blackburn, said his clients endured a "visceral fear" at the hands of Dyson Heydon.

Josh Bornstein, principal lawyer at Maurice Blackburn, said his clients endured a “visceral fear” at the hands of Dyson Heydon.Credit:Joe Armao

On Monday, 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,” it said.

Mr Bornstein denied that Mr Heydon did not have a fair hearing for the allegations made against him, pointing out that the investigation into his conduct was commissioned and reviewed by some of the most gifted legal minds in Australia.

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“To suggest that the process was somehow tainted or wrong or inadequate is nonsense,” Mr Bornstein said.

“The High Court has unreservedly accepted the conclusions of that investigation.”

The women claim that Mr Heydon’s status as one of the most powerful men in the country protected him from being held accountable for his alleged actions.

Mr Bornstein said his clients lived in “visceral fear of Dyson Heydon’s power”.

“My clients, when they commenced work at the High Court, were the best and brightest graduates of law schools from around Australia. To their horror, they were sexually harassed by a judge of the High Court.”

He also said one of his clients had disclosed the alleged conduct to another lawyer for the High Court but that the complaint was not acted on by the administration of the court.

“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 High Court inquiry was prompted by two of the judge’s former associates notifying Chief Justice Kiefel in March 2019 that they had been sexually harassed by Mr Heydon.

Mr 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.

Lawyers for Mr Heydon have been contacted for comment.

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