Recent allegations that Dyson Heydon repeatedly harassed his young female associates who were working at the High Court of Australia, demonstrate his belief that he could get away with it. The news seems to have prompted many in the law to ask what they could be doing better, but few seem to be asking what former Chief Justice Murray Gleeson did, or didn’t do, to prevent the offending behaviour.
Now, I realise that Murray Gleeson is a powerful force in the law, and perhaps that is why there is such little demand that he give an account of his inaction (or action). But he should give an account, given it is alleged another Justice of the High Court informed him of an allegation against Heydon, by an associate, way back in 2005.
This should a big story. According to the article linked above, Sharona Coutts (one of six former associates whose allegations of sexual harassment by Heydon have been upheld), told former Justice McHugh of sexual harassment of a young associate by Heydon in 2005. In turn, she says, McHugh reported the incident to Murray Gleeson and said to her words to the effect of “I’ve told the Chief. It’s his court. He has to deal with this.”
The ongoing scandal here is that Gleeson does not even deign to confirm or deny whether such behaviour was reported to him.
Why is a giant of the law allowed to wash his hands of the plight of young women who he should have protected, but did not?
Murray Gleeson should give an account of the actions he took when he was made aware of allegations about Heydon’s behaviour towards young women at the court. And if he claims that McHugh never told him of the issue, then McHugh should give an account of why he did not report the issue to Gleeson.