It’s being called the “us too” moment for Australia’s legal profession.
Last year, six women complained of being sexually harassed by Dyson Heydon when he was a High Court judge and they were working with him as associates. An investigation commissioned by the High Court has upheld their complaints.
“At the time that this sexual harassment occurred, Dyson Heydon was in his sixties, a conservative judge, a prominent Christian and a married man,” Josh Bornstein, a lawyer for three of the women, said.
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“The women he employed were in their early twenties and often straight out of university. He was one of the most powerful men in the country, who could make or break their future careers in the law.”
Heydon, through his lawyers, has denied any “predatory behaviour” or breaches of the law.
The investigation, carried out by Dr Vivienne Thom, found the evidence “demonstrates a tendency by Mr Heydon to engage in a pattern of conduct of sexual harassment”, including unwelcome touching and trying to kiss the women.
“We're ashamed that this could have happened at the High Court of Australia,” the Chief Justice of the High Court, Susan Kiefel, said in a statement. “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.”
Through his lawyers, Heydon says that if any conduct of his has caused offence, that result was “inadvertent and unintended”, and he apologises for any offence caused.
An investigation by Kate McClymont and Jacqueline Maley from the Sydney Morning Herald has gone into detail about the complaints made by two of the women, Rachael Collins and Chelsea Tabart. Tabart was 22 when she became an associate to Heydon. She alleges in the SMH that the judge took her out for a drink after her first day at work and “put his right hand on her left thigh”.