Geoffrey Robertson

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Geoffrey Robertson
Geoffrey Robertson.jpg
At the 2009 Ideas Festival, Brisbane
Born Geoffrey Ronald Robertson
(1946-09-30) 30 September 1946 (age 67)
Sydney
Residence England
Occupation Lawyer
Employer Doughty Street Chambers
Title QC; Recorder
Spouse(s) Kathy Lette
Children 2
Website
Geoffrey Robertson website

Geoffrey Ronald Robertson QC (born 30 September 1946)[1] is a human rights barrister, academic, author and broadcaster. He holds dual Australian and British citizenship.

Robertson is a founder and joint head of Doughty Street Chambers.[2] He serves as a Master of the Bench at the Middle Temple, a recorder, and visiting professor at Queen Mary, University of London.[1][3]

Education and personal life[edit]

Robertson was born in Sydney, Australia, and grew up in the suburb of Eastwood,[4] attending Epping Boys' High School. He then attended the University of Sydney where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours, before winning a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Law.[1][5] In 2006 he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Sydney.[6]

In 1990 Robertson married the author Kathy Lette, and they live together in London with their children.[1] They had met in 1988 during the filming of an episode of Hypothetical for ABC Television; Robertson was going out with Nigella Lawson at the time and Lette was married to Kim Williams (later to become CEO of News Limited).[7] In his 2010 Who's Who entry, he lists his hobbies as tennis, opera and fishing.[1]

Legal career[edit]

Robertson became a barrister in 1973. He became a QC in 1988. He became well known after acting as defence counsel in the celebrated English criminal trials of Oz, Gay News, the ABC Trial, The Romans in Britain (the prosecution brought by Mary Whitehouse),[8] Randle & Pottle, the Brighton bombing and Matrix Churchill.[9] He also defended the artist J. S. G. Boggs from a private prosecution brought by the Bank of England regarding his depictions of British currency.[9]

In 1989 and 1990 he led the defence team for Rick Gibson, a Canadian artist, and Peter Sylveire, a director of an art gallery, who were charged with outraging public decency for exhibiting earrings made from human foetuses.[10][11][12][13]

He has also acted in well known libel cases, including defending The Guardian against Neil Hamilton MP. Robertson was threatened by terrorists for representing Salman Rushdie.[14]

In 1972 he advised Peter Hain as a McKenzie friend when Hain defended himself on several charges including conspiracy to trespass arising from his involvement in anti-apartheid protests, as a protest against the apartheid regime. During the ten-day trial at the Old Bailey Hain dismissed his QCs, but retained Robertson and another as advisers, before being convicted and fined £200. He was also employed to defend John Stonehouse after his unsuccessful attempt at faking his own death in 1974.[9]

In 2000 in the Independent Schools Tribunal, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice, he successfully defended A. S. Neill's Summerhill School, a private free school. The proceedings brought by OFSTED on behalf of David Blunkett, the Education Minister, who was seeking the closure of the school.[15] The case was later dramatised by Tiger Aspect Productions in a TV series entitled, "Summerhill" and broadcast on BBC Four and CBBC.[16] In August Robertson was retained by the heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson for a hearing before the British Boxing Board of Control. The disciplinary hearing related to 2 counts relating to Tyson's behaviour after his 38-second victory over Lou Savarese in Glasgow in June that year. Tyson escaped a ban from fighting in Britain.[17] Robertson successfully deployed a defence of freedom of expression for Tyson, the first use before the BBBofC, but Tyson was convicted on the other count and fined.

In 2002 he defended the Dow Jones in Dow Jones & Co. Inc. v Gutnick, a case where Joseph Gutnick, an Australian mining magnate, sued the Dow Jones after an article critical of him was published on the website of the Barron's newspaper. Gutnick successfully applied to the Australian High Court, requesting for the case to be heard in Australia rather than the United States, where the First Amendment protects free speech. Robertson then appealed the case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The case was described as a "very worrying decision" as it potentially opened the door for libel cases related to internet publishing to be heard in any country and in multiple countries for the same article.[18] In January and December 2002 Robertson was retained by The Washington Post to represent its veteran war correspondent, Jonathan Randal, in The Hague at the United Nations Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia establishing the principle of qualified privilege for the protection of journalists in war crimes courts.[19]

In 2006 Geoffrey Robertson successfully defended The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in Jameel v Wall Street Journal Europe. The case centred on an article published in the WSJ in 2002, which alleged that the United States were monitoring the bank accounts of a Saudi Arabian businessman to ensure he was not funding terrorists. Jameel, who was represented by Carter-Ruck, was originally awarded £40,000 in damages but this was overturned in favour of the WSJ. The case was viewed by The Lawyer as a landmark case which redefined the earlier case of Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd, upholding the right to publish if it is deemed to be in the public interest.[20]

In early 2007, instructed by the aboriginal lawyer Michael Mansell, Robertson took proceedings for the Aboriginal Tasmanians to recover 15 sets of their stolen ancestral remains, then being held in the basement of the Natural History Museum in London. He accused the museum of wishing to retain them for "genetic prospecting".[21]

Robertson has also appeared in cases before the European Court of Human Rights and in other courts across the world.[22]

Amongst these, Robertson was involved in the defence of Michael X in Trinidad and has appeared for the defence in a libel case against the former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. He was also involved in the controversial inquest of Helen Smith and also in the Blom-Cooper Commission inquiry into the smuggling of guns from Israel through Antigua to Colombia.[9]

Robertson has also been on several human rights missions on behalf of Amnesty International, such as to Mozambique, Venda, Czechoslovakia, Malawi, Vietnam and South Africa.[9]

Until 2007 he sat as an appeal judge at the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone.[5][23][24]

He is a patron of the Media Legal Defence Initiative.[25]

In 2010 Robertson defended Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in extradition proceedings in the United Kingdom.[5]

Media career[edit]

Since 1981, often with long intervals in between, Robertson has hosted an Australian television series of programmes called Geoffrey Robertson's Hypotheticals.[1] These shows invite notable people, often including former and current political leaders, to discuss contemporary issues by assuming imagined identities in hypothetical situations.

He also speaks at public events including many literary festivals. In 2009 he spoke at the Ideas Festival in Brisbane, Australia.[26]

Writing career[edit]

Robertson has written many books.[1] One of them, The Justice Game (1998), is on the school curriculum in New South Wales, Australia.[27]

His 2005 book The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man Who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold details the story of John Cooke, who prosecuted King Charles I of England in the treason trial that led to his execution.[28] After the Restoration, Cooke was convicted of high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered.

In his 2006 revision of Crimes Against Humanity, Robertson deals in detail with human rights, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The book starts with the history of human rights and has several case studies such as the case of General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, the Balkans Wars, and the 2003 Iraq War. His views on the United States' atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan can be considered controversial. He considers the Hiroshima bomb was certainly justified, and that the second bomb on Nagasaki was most probably justified but that it might have been better if it was dropped outside a city. His argument is that the bombs, while killing more than 100,000 civilians, were justified because they pushed Emperor Hirohito of Japan to surrender, thus saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of allied forces, as well as Japanese soldiers and civilians.

In his 2010 book, The Case of the Pope, Robertson claims that Pope Benedict XVI is guilty of protecting paedophiles because the church swore the victims to secrecy and moved perpetrators in Catholic sex abuse cases to other positions where they had access to children while knowing the perpetrators were likely to reoffend.[29] This, Robertson believes, constitutes the crime of assisting underage sex and when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, the retired pope approved this policy up to November 2002. In Robertson's opinion, the Vatican is not a sovereign state and the pope is not immune to prosecution.[30] Since Benedict XVI retired, Robertson stated: "The committee's enquiries will inevitably lead it to conclude that the Vatican has broken multiple articles of the convention on a huge scale in many countries. The result in human suffering is incalculable. Francis's papacy could well be defined by the world's verdict on his response – more handwringing apologies or calls for a line to be drawn under the past will no longer wash. He will fail unless he initiates bold tangible actions, for example lifting the veil of secrecy that has protected so many clerical rapists, engaging secular authorities and offering rather than resisting appropriate compensation."[31]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Who's Who 2010. A&C Black. 1 December 2009. p. 1960. ISBN 978-1-4081-1414-8. 
  2. ^ "Geoffrey Robertson QC". Doughty Street Chambers. May 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  3. ^ "Geoffrey Robertson, School of Law, Queen Mary, University of London". Queen Mary, University of London. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  4. ^ "Enough Rope with Andrew Denton – episode 92: Geoffrey Robertson". ABC Australia. 29 August 2005. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  5. ^ a b c Chu, Ben (11 December 2010). "Geoffrey Robertson QC: The Great Defender". The Independent. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  6. ^ Eminent alumni, University of Sydney
  7. ^ "The Big Chill". Australian Story (transcript). ABC Television. 30 September 2002. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  8. ^ "The Times Law 100 2009 – Geoffrey Robertson". The Times. 23 July 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Robertson, Geoffrey (1999). The Justice Game. London: Vintage. ISBN 978-0-09-958191-8. 
  10. ^ Bowcott, Owen (31 January 1989), "Artistic merit defence 'should be open to foetus earring pair'", The Guardian (London) 
  11. ^ Mills, Heather (31 January 1989), "'Foetuses as art' case hinges on common law", The Independent (London) 
  12. ^ Wolmar, Christian (7 February 1989), "Nusiance charge in foetus case dismissed", The Independent (London) 
  13. ^ R v Gibson and another. Court of Appeal, Criminal Division. [1991] 1 All ER 439, [1990] 2 QB 619, [1990] 3 WLR 595, [1990] Crim LR 738, 91 Cr App Rep 341, 155 JP 126.
  14. ^ Flood, Alison (12 August 2008). "Call for compensation after shelving of Islam novel". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 August 2008. 
  15. ^ Smithers, Rebecca (24 March 2000). "Radical boarding school escapes closure threat". BBC. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  16. ^ "Summerhill". Tiger Aspect/Summerhill. 21 January 2004. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  17. ^ "Tyson Is Fined For Misconduct". New York Times. 23 August 2000. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  18. ^ Maynard, Roger; Gibb, Frances (11 December 2002). "Net libel actions can be brought anywhere in world". The Times. Retrieved 2010-12-05. 
  19. ^ "International Tribunal Recognizes Qualified Privilege for War Correspondents". Communications Lawyer. Winter 2003. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  20. ^ Harris, Joanne (11 October 2006). "Finers wins landmark libel ruling for Wall Street Journal". The Lawyer. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  21. ^ "Aboriginal remains row". Australian Broadcasting Corp. 21 February 2007. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  22. ^ Brett Bowden; Michael T. Davis (2008). Terror: From Tyrannicide to Terrorism. University of Queensland Press. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-0-7022-3599-3. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  23. ^ Rory Carroll (10 March 2004). "War crimes QC under pressure to quit after bias claims". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  24. ^ Davies, Hugh (13 March 2004). "UN judge defies claims of bias". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  25. ^ "People". Media Legal Defence Initiative. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  26. ^ "Brisbane Ideas Festival". BrisbaneTimes. 20 March 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  27. ^ "Geoffrey Robertson's The justice game : study notes for Advanced English Module C / Bruce Pattinson". National Library of Australia. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  28. ^ "Books & Literature: 'The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man Who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold'". Metroactive.com. 10 April 2006. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  29. ^ Thom Dyke, "The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse". Solicitors Journal. 20 September 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  30. ^ "Put the pope in the dock" by Geoffrey Robertson, The Guardian (2 April 2010)
  31. ^ "UN tells Vatican to hand over details of child sex abuse cases" by Nick Sqires, The Daily Telegraph, 9 July 2013

External links[edit]