Friday, March 20, 2009

(Another)(legal) high flyer not flying above the law

From the Australian ABC Radio:
He used to preside over one of the highest courts in Australia. Former Queen's Counsel, Australian Federal Court judge and former human rights commissioner Marcus Einfeld lied about a speeding ticket.

On the 8th of January 2006, Marcus Einfeld's silver Lexus tripped a speed camera in the Sydney suburb of Mosman.

Instead of a paying the fine and taking the three demerit points, Einfeld chose to perjure himself. Legal commentator and barrister Greg Barns.

GREG BARNS: He told a magistrate, in fact he testified before a magistrate, he hadn't been driving his car when he was clocked doing over the speed limit in Sydney.

He then provided police with a long statement in which he talked about who might have been driving the car. That turned out to be false.

There were a number of other falsehoods in that particular statement and it was from there that he got himself into big trouble with being charged essentially with the perjury and making a false statement with intent to pervert the course of justice.

KAREN BARLOW: There was just elements of the ridiculousness in all this with the fact that the woman he alleged to be driving turned out to be dead.

GREG BARNS: That's right. Professor Teresa Brennan, I think her name was, who he said was driving the car in fact turned out to be dead. There were then allegations made about other cases where other names of people had been used.

Justice James said that as a top legal practitioner, Einfeld must have fully appreciated the gravity of lying to the justice system.

KAREN BARLOW: The Law Council of New South Wales and the State Attorney-General John Hatzistergos also say the sentence was appropriate.

Detective Superintendent Colin Dyson says he has no sympathy for the former legal high flier.

COLIN DYSON: I don't believe anyone is above the law.

KAREN BARLOW: Do you think Einfeld thought he was above the law?

COLIN DYSON: I don't know what was acting in his mind. I think only one person knows the answer to that. All I know is there's no winners here today, but justice was served.

In the NSW Supreme Court, the 70-year-old was sentenced to three years in jail with a two-year non-parole period on charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

And this follow-up by Malcolm Knox in the SMH:

A man without honour
The fall was complete for Einfeld, once a Queen's Counsel, Federal Court judge, National Trust living treasure and president of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Operatic in scale, that fall was reflected in microcosm yesterday: between Einfeld's robust, cheerful arrival at court and his sombre departure between two Corrective Services officers; between the ebullience of his big entourage of family and supporters at the start of the hearing, and their tearful silence when his sentence was announced; and between the eminence of his achievements and the pointless deviousness of his crimes.

Einfeld had pleaded guilty to two offences relating to his car being clocked 10 kmh over the speed limit at 4.01pm on January 8, 2006. For the first, lying under oath to the Local Court in August 2006 when he said he was not driving the car but had lent it to an American friend, Teresa Brennan, he was sentenced to one year and nine months.

On this excuse he was acquitted in August 2006 but it was later discovered that Professor Brennan had died three years earlier. This gave rise to the second offence, of wilfully trying to pervert the course of justice. It was for this that Einfeld received the heavier sentence of two years and three months. The latter crime "aggravated the seriousness" of the first, Justice James said.

In August 2006, when police investigated the Brennan revelations, Einfeld wrote a 20-page statement that would have done Colleen McCullough proud. It was an elaborate fiction about how Einfeld lent his car to a woman named Brennan whom he had met in Bangladesh. His 82-paragraph description of this Brennan's appearance, the scenes, dialogue and narration were vivid, fluent and totally fictitious.

The intelligence and imagination Einfeld brought to that statement, his history in the law and standing in the community only made things worse for him.

A son of the former Labor minister Syd Einfeld, Einfeld was a pillar of the Jewish and eastern suburbs establishment.

But for Justice James, Einfeld's position aggravated his crimes. "He knew the high importance of telling the truth," Justice James said, and his crimes "strike at the heart of the administration of justice". He had no excuses for attacking the rule of law itself.


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