Lionel Mur­phy pa­pers: the al­le­ga­tions the in­quiry wanted an­swer­ing

The Guardian Australia - - News - Anne Davies

A 1986 par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion of in­quiry in­quir­ing into Jus­tice Lionel Mur­phy’s con­duct iden­ti­fied 15 al­le­ga­tions it be­lieved worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing. They are de­scribed here. Of those 15, Mur­phy was sent 14 for a re­sponse. The com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gated 41 al­le­ga­tions in to­tal but did not make find­ings as the com­mis­sion was wound up due to Mur­phy’s ter­mi­nal ill­ness. The al­le­ga­tions were pub­lished by par­lia­ment for the first time on Thurs­day.

The al­le­ga­tions

That in De­cem­ber 1979 Mur­phy, then a high court judge, spoke to Don­ald Thomas who was a de­tec­tive chief in­spec­tor of the com­mon­wealth po­lice in charge of the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion branch re­gard­ing a con­spir­acy pros­e­cu­tion re­lat­ing to so­cial se­cu­rity. Mur­phy ex­tended an in­vi­ta­tion to Thomas to meet Don Grimes, a La­bor sen­a­tor, who had strongly crit­i­cised the con­duct of the case in par­lia­ment. He also then spoke to Thomas about the im­ped­ing for­ma­tion of the Aus­tralian fed­eral po­lice and said “we need some­one in­side to tell us what is go­ing on,” con­vey­ing to Thomas that the judge sought covert in­for­ma­tion from him. He also sug­gested that the judge would ar­range for Thomas to get rank of as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner.

That in April 1980 and July 1981 Mur­phy had agreed with his close friend so­lic­i­tor Mor­gan Ryan and oth­ers to make in­quiries with a view to de­ter­min­ing whether two AFP of­fi­cers could be bribed or oth­er­wise in­flu­enced. In a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the judge and Ryan, Ryan asked: “Have you been able to find out about those two fel­lows who are do­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion?” Mur­phy replied in sub­stance that the an­swer was: “Def­i­nitely no, they were both straight.”

That in Novem­ber 1975 Danny Sankey had taken a pri­vate pros­e­cu­tion against Mur­phy and oth­ers for con­spir­acy. The judge is al­leged to have agreed with Ryan and Abe Saf­fron that Saf­fron would ar­range an ap­proach to Sankey in or­der to per­suade him to drop the pros­e­cu­tions. It was al­leged that Mur­phy knew, be­cause Saf­fron was a well-known crime fig­ure, that this would amount to an at­tempt to in­tim­i­date the wit­ness.

That Mur­phy had given ev­i­dence dur­ing his trial in 1985 which had the ef­fect of sug­gest­ing to the jury that chief mag­is­trate Clar­rie Briese had in­vented al­le­ga­tions about him. But the judge, through his coun­sel, had pre­vi­ously ex­pressly dis­avowed that he would put an al­le­ga­tion of fab­ri­ca­tion. This de­prived Briese of the right of re­but­tal or the abil­ity to sup­port his cred­i­bil­ity, and was a se­ri­ous breach of le­gal ethics.

That Mur­phy had given Clar­rie Briese’s di­aries to Pamela Whitty so they could be pho­to­copied when he knew the judge in the case had or­dered that they should be made avail­able only to the le­gal ad­vis­ers in the case. This al­le­ga­tion was not put to Mur­phy due to the wind up of the com­mis­sion.

That in June 1985 dur­ing his trial be­fore Jus­tice Can­tor, Mur­phy had given false tes­ti­mony over his deal­ings with Jus­tice Jim McClel­land. Mur­phy told the court he had only ap­proached McClel­land af­ter McClel­land had spo­ken to Chief Judge Staunton, whereas the com­mis­sion al­leged he had ap­proached McClel­land ear­lier, for the pur­pose of get­ting McClel­land to make an ap­proach to the chief judge on be­half of Mor­gan Ryan.

That Mur­phy, while a judge, had ap­proached then New South Wales premier Neville Wranto put Wadim Je­garow on the Eth­nic Af­fairs com­mis­sion.

That in March 1979 Mur­phy had urged or en­cour­aged Ryan to cause harm to Sankey’s coun­sel, David Rofe.

That in March 1980 Mur­phy as­sisted Ryan in ob­tain­ing a meet­ing with Mil­ton Mor­ris, then a mem­ber of the NSW par­lia­ment. The pur­pose of the meet­ing was to threaten Mor­ris with ex­po­sure over his in­volve­ment in an al­leged tax-eva­sion scheme, so that Mor­ris would in­ter­cede with the then op­po­si­tion leader and get him to back off at­tacks on Ryan in Par­lia­ment over a his role in the Cessna-Mil­ner drug case.

That Mur­phy in April 1980 had dis­cussed with Ryan’s wife, Dorothy, a strat­egy to get a govern­ment mem­ber in the NSW par­lia­ment to vouch for Ryan and say that an in­quiry had had Ryan “come up smelling like roses”. In fact no in­quiry had been con­ducted, and the judge knew that Ryan had not been ex­on­er­ated in re­la­tion to the im­mi­gra­tion con­spir­acy. The com­mis­sion al­leged this amounted to mis­be­haviour be­cause it in­volved mak­ing false state­ments.

That in Jan­uary 1980 Mur­phy had tried to in­flu­ence the award of a NSW govern­ment con­tract to re­model Cen­tral rail­way sta­tion, so it would go to in­ter­ests as­so­ci­ated with Abe Saf­fron. The com­mis­sion said at the time Mur­phy knew Saf­fron was a per­son of ill-re­pute but had tried to as­sist him re­gard­less.

That Mur­phy had agreed with Ryan he would make rep­re­sen­ta­tions to then Wran, on be­half of a com­pany as­so­ci­ated with Abe Saf­fron in or­der to ob­tain a lease over Luna Park.

That Mur­phy had tried in April 1982 to get the chief judge of the district court to sched­ule an early trial for Mor­gan Ryan over the im­mi­gra­tion charges.

That Mur­phy had in Jan­uary 1982 had con­ver­sa­tions with chief mag­is­trate Clar­rie Briese about the so called “Greek con­spir­acy case” which was be­ing heard at the time. He de­scribed it as one of the great­est scan­dals in le­gal his­tory and said it was “op­pres­sive that 180 peo­ple could be charged with a sin­gle con­spir­acy.” He went on to say the mag­is­trate hear­ing it would be a hero in the com­mu­nity if he dis­missed it.

That Mur­phy de­lib­er­ately un­der­stated and gave false ev­i­dence about the fre­quency of his con­tacts and the na­ture of his re­la­tion­ship with Ryan dur­ing his 1985 trial.

Pho­to­graph: The Age/Fair­fax Me­dia via Getty Im­ages

Lionel Mur­phy, left, with jockey Athol Mul­ley, Eric Miller QC and Mor­gan Ryan, af­ter charges against Mul­ley had been dis­missed.

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