Court apologises over the conduct of judge

·2-min read

The chief judge of the Federal Circuit Court has apologised to two women who were sexually harassed by a Sydney judge.

A court worker and a former law student complained last year they were subjected to sexualised behaviour, including "inappropriate communication", in 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2020.

One complained of "two unwelcome hugs".

A court committee inquiry into the judge's conduct began in August and its report was submitted in April, ahead of Chief Judge William Alstergren delivering his determination this week.

"The judge's conduct is of great concern to the court as is the harm caused to these young women," Judge Alstergren said.

"The court is ashamed that such conduct could occur, especially by someone of such standing and responsibility as a serving judge, and in circumstances where he held a position of trust in respect to each of the complainants.

"The behaviour was totally unacceptable and inexcusable.

"I have personally met with each of the complainants and, on behalf of the court, I have apologised, unreservedly, to them for the judge's conduct."

A lawyer for one of the women said she was traumatised by her experience and will pursue a claim for compensation.

"My client hopes that other victims of sexual harassment will be encouraged to come forward now that courts have shown they will properly investigate complaints and hold judges to account for their misconduct," Maurice Blackburn workplace lawyer Josh Bornstein said.

The court committee found that neither the judge's medical condition nor his workload could justify or excuse his inappropriate conduct towards either of the complainants.

The judge later resigned, effective July 7.

But the complaints will still be referred to Attorney-General Michaelia Cash.

An investigation has begun into whether any other people were the subject of inappropriate conduct by the judge.

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