Six former High Court staff were sexually harassed by former judge Dyson Heydon, an independent inquiry has found.
High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel said in a statement on Monday the court was “ashamed that this could have happened at the High Court of Australia”.
An investigation report by former inspector-general of intelligence and security Dr Vivienne Thom has been provided to the six complainants and Justice Heydon.
Justice Heydon has denied the allegations.
The court was advised in 2019 of allegations of sexual harassment against the former judge between 2003 and 2013.
“The investigation found that six former court staff members who were judges’ associates were harassed by the former justice,” Justice Kiefel said.
“The findings are of extreme concern to me, my fellow justices, our chief executive and the staff of the court.”
She said a sincere apology had been given to the six women, who had made difficult decisions to come forward with their complaints.
Until now the court has not spoken publicly about the investigation.
A number of women requested confidentiality.
“The court now confirms that the subject of the investigation was the Honourable Dyson Heydon AC QC,” Justice Kiefel said.
“We ask that the media respect the privacy of the complainants.”
The investigation also made six recommendations that have been acted on:
- A human resources policy relevant to the personal staff of justices
- Better induction process for associates
- A support person for associates, who can act as a conduit to the chief executive and principal registrar
- Clarification that confidentiality requirements for associates relate only to the work of the court
- Associates are not obliged to attend social functions.
Justice Kiefel said the court had taken a close look at its policies and processes.
“There is no place for sexual harassment in any workplace,” Justice Kiefel said.
Justice Heydon was on the bench from 2003 to 2013 and led a royal commission into union misconduct.
Comment is being sought from his lawyers.
Maurice Blackburn lawyer Josh Bornstein, who acts for three of the women, paid tribute to the women.
“I know from dealings with my clients how traumatic these experiences were and how much courage it has taken to break their silence about this scandal,” Mr Bornstein said.
“A number of these women abandoned their plans for a legal career after their experience.”