Chapter 20 - Relations with the judiciary

Report of the first committee

In its report (PP 168/1984) the committee concluded that it could not be satisfied of the authenticity of the tapes and transcripts, and that therefore no facts had been established which amounted to proved misbehaviour, whatever view of misbehaviour was accepted. The committee was divided, however, on another matter which did not relate to the conduct of the judge as revealed by the tapes and transcripts, but which arose from the evidence taken by the committee in its attempts to determine the authenticity of the materials.

One of the persons mentioned in the conversations purportedly recorded in the transcripts was Mr C R Briese, the Chairman of the Bench of Stipendiary Magistrates of New South Wales. Mr Briese was invited to appear before the committee to see if he could throw some light on the matters referred to in the conversations. In the course of his appearance he gave evidence of conversations he had had with Mr Justice Murphy which could be interpreted as an attempt on the part of the judge to influence committal proceedings in the Magistrates Court. Those proceedings related to charges laid against Mr Morgan Ryan, the “Sydney solicitor” whose conversations with the judge were purportedly recorded in the transcripts. This raised the possibility that the judge had been guilty of the criminal offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice, which would amount to misbehaviour whatever view of the meaning of misbehaviour was accepted.

The three government senators on the committee, who held the majority with the chairman’s casting vote, did not consider that the evidence of Mr Briese established a prima facie case against the judge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, and therefore did not recommend any further action. The two Oppositions senators, in a dissenting report, found that the evidence of Mr Briese did establish a prima facie case, and the one Australian Democrat senator considered that the evidence ought to be examined in a formal hearing.

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