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Compo claims over sexual harassment by High Court judge

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Three women who had complaints of sexual harassment against former High Court Judge Dyson Heydon upheld will seek compensation.

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An independent inquiry found Heydon sexually harassed six female associates who worked for him at the High Court between 2003 and 2013.

The High Court was advised in 2019 of the sexual harassment allegations levelled against Heydon.

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel said the court was “ashamed that this could have happened at the High Court of Australia”.

“The investigation found that six former court staff members who were judges’ associates were harassed by the former justice,” she said.

“The findings are of extreme concern to me, my fellow justices, our chief executive and the staff of the court.”

The independent inquiry report prepared by former inspector-general of intelligence and security Dr Vivienne Thom has been provided to the complainants and Heydon, who denies the allegations.

“Any allegation of predatory behaviour or breaches of the law is categorically denied by our client,” Heydon’s lawyers 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.”

Maurice Blackburn is representing three of the women, who will pursue claims for compensation against Heydon and the Commonwealth.

“Dyson Heydon’s repeated sexual harassment of young women who were starting out their legal careers was known to many people and has caused significant harm and trauma to my clients,” said the firm’s Josh Bornstein.

“Consistent with the exemplary approach of the current High Court to this scandal, it has indicated a willingness to participate in negotiations in order to see whether an agreement can be reached regarding the claims for compensation, and we expect that to commence in the coming weeks.

“We will also be writing to lawyers for Dyson Heydon shortly to ask if they too are willing to engage in a similar process. If they decline that invitation, I am instructed to lodge a claim in the Australian Human Rights Commission.”

Bornstein dismissed reports that Heydon was not afforded procedural fairness.

“This is a ridiculous suggestion. The High Court acted swiftly to instigate an independent investigation led by Dr Thom – a former Inspector-General of Intelligence Security – and a fair process was run at all times for those involved including my clients and Mr Heydon.

“Mr Heydon himself was at all times also being advised by experienced lawyers.

“Dr Thom is one of Australia’s most senior and respected investigators. The Chief Justice is Australia’s most senior lawyer and she as well as the High Court more broadly has accepted the investigation’s findings against Dyson Heydon. It is time he and others did the same,” he said.

Labor is calling for Heydon, who headed the 2015 royal commission into trade unions and described then-Labor leader Bill Shorten as an evasive witneess, to be stripped of his Order of Australia.

-with AAP

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