Robert Richter (lawyer)

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Robert Richter

Born (1946-02-13) 13 February 1946 (age 75)
Years active1971–present
Known forRepresenting defendants unpopular in public opinion

Robert Richter QC (born 13 February 1946) is an Australian barrister, based in Melbourne. Richter has handled a number of high-profile cases including defendants unpopular in public opinion. Mr Richter QC is reputed to cost between $12,000 and $15,000 a day.[1] He is an Adjunct Professor at Victoria University. He is a critic of human rights violations and advocates for the rule of law.[citation needed]

Richter was born in Kyrgyzstan in 1946 and his family arrived in Australia in 1959. He was admitted to the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws in the late 1960s. He was called to the bar on 5 August 1971.

Personal life[edit]

Richter was born in the Kirghiz Republic, at that time a republic of the Soviet Union.[2] His father, Berek, was a Polish Jew, and his mother, Sonia, was Ukrainian; they had met there after being displaced during World War II. After living for ten years in Israel, Richter's family moved to Melbourne, Australia, following an uncle who had already established business in the Rag Trade. Along with the rest of his family, the 13-year-old Richter arrived in Australia with little or no English. It has been reported that he taught himself English with the aid of television programs and dictionaries.[2]

Richter has been described as a "progressive atheist".[3]

Tertiary education[edit]

Richter was admitted to the degrees of the Bachelor of Arts, and the Bachelor of Laws with honours from the University of Melbourne.[4] Richter was Editor of the Melbourne University Law Review.

Membership of statutory bodies and professional organisations[edit]

Richter was a committee member of the then "Criminal Bar Association of Victoria", and the Victorian Bar Council from 1997 to 1999. Richter was President of the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties from 1994 to 1996. In addition to his business as a barrister, Richter was also a part-time Commissioner of the Law Reform Commission of Victoria from 1989 to 1992.[5] He was appointed a silk on 26 November 1985.[6]

Notable cases[edit]

In 1987, Richer acted for surgeon Ian McGoldrick who was indicted on 11 charges of procuring abortions contrary to the then sections 64 to 66 of the Victorian Crimes Act 1958[2][7] The case was dismissed at committal hearings, the presiding Justice following Justice Menhennitt's reasoning in 1969 matter of R v Davidson [1969] VR 667 at 670.[8][9]

In 1994, Richter successfully defended Victorian Police officer Cliff Lockwood in the Supreme Court of Victoria against charges that Lockwood allegedly murdered Walsh Street police shootings suspect Gary Abdallah in 1989.[2][10]

In 1996 Richter successfully defended John Elliott against charges that he allegedly illegally moved A$ 66.5 million from Elders IXL, to "Equiticorp Tasman Ltd", a shelf company Elliot was alleged to control.[2][11][12]

In 1998 Richter led the defence for now convicted "Hoddle Street Massacre" perpetrator Julian Knight.[2][13] Richter continues to represent Knight during his parole hearings on a pro-bono basis.[14]

In 2000 and 2003, Richter acted for then ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark.[2][15]

In 2002 Richter acted for Ray Williams in the HIH Insurance Royal Commission and the inter-related court cases.[2][16][17][18]

In 2005, Richter successfully defended Melbourne underworld crime figure Mick Gatto against the charge of murdering suspected underworld hitman Andrew Veniamin. [2]

In 2009, Richter successfully defended Labor minister Theo Theophanous over rape charges.[19][20] In the same year, Richter represented a high school teacher who pleaded guilty to committing sexual acts against a teenage girl. During the sentencing appeal, Richter argued that the victim was a "drama queen".[21] The appeal was successful, with Richter's client being freed.[22]

In 2015, Richter represented an athletics coach to national champions, with extensive links to one of the country's elite Catholic schools, St Kevin's College, Melbourne Toorak, who was convicted of grooming a child under the age of 16.[1]

In 2016, Richter represented one of the conspirators behind the 2015 Anzac Day Terror Plot, with the conspirator sentenced to seven years imprisonment, for a crime that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Richter argued that his client's "rehabilitation is in the public interest".[23]

In 2017, Richter intervened in the case of Susan Neill-Fraser, who was convicted in 2010 of the murder of Bob Chappell, meeting with Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman to call for an independent inquiry.[24]

In 2017, Richter was retained by Cardinal George Pell after Pell was charged by Victoria Police in relation to multiple allegations of historical child sexual abuse.[25] At Pell's 2019 sentencing hearing, Richter said that the case was "no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating".[26] He later issued a written apology for making the statement.[27] Bret Walker has replaced Richter as Pell's lead counsel for his subsequent appeal.[28]

Richter announced on 24 February 2021 that he would be lead counsel for Susan Neill-Fraser on her subsequent appeal before the Supreme Court of Tasmania.[29]

In June 2021, he acted for Witness K before the ACT Supreme Court, arguing that the former spy should not be convicted.[30]


  1. ^ a b Tessa Akerman, "School athletics coach convicted of child sex offence", The Australian, 16 May 2015
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Munro, Ian (23 June 2005). "The Age 1854-2004 - Brief Encounter". Melbourne, Australia: The Age. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  3. ^ Davey, Melissa (30 March 2018). "George Pell committal: tension, theatre and tedium in courtroom 22". the Guardian. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Robert Richter - Victoria University - Melbourne Australia".
  5. ^ "Drug Policy Expert Committee > Members". 14 August 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  6. ^ "Robert Richter QC". The Victorian Bar Inc. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  7. ^ Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).
  8. ^ "Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008" (PDF). Parliament of Victoria. 1 September 2008. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  9. ^ "McGoldrick cleared on 11 abortion counts". The Age. 3 June 1987. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  10. ^ Buttler, Mark (29 December 2009). "Drug case against ex-cop shooter of Gary Abdallah". Herald Sun. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  11. ^ Elliott v Seymour [1999] FCA 976 (19 July 1999), Federal Court (Australia).
  12. ^ DPP Reference No2 of 1996 [1997] VSC 48 (26 September 1997), Supreme Court (Vic, Australia).
  13. ^ Pitt, Helen (19 April 1998). "Accused wanted to Die". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  14. ^ 'QC helps Hoddle Street killer Julian Knight's freedom bid',, 6 August 2012.
  15. ^ Tozer, Kate (25 February 2003). "Clark claims racism in pub brawl case". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  16. ^ Mealy, Rachel (8 August 2002). "Ray Williams' third day of defence at HIH inquiry". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  17. ^ "Call for restraint following mobbing of former HIH chief". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 8 August 2002. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  18. ^ R v Williams [2005] NSWSC 315 (15 April 2005), Supreme Court (NSW, Australia).
  19. ^ Rick Wallace and Victorian political reporter, 'Top silk to defend MP in sex case', The Australian, 22 October 2008.
  20. ^ Collins, Sarah-Jane (24 July 2009). "Rape charge dismissed against MP Theo Theophanous". Illawarra Mercury.
  21. ^ "Defence lawyer Robert Richter QC labels teen sex victim 'drama queen'".
  22. ^ "Teacher Paul Incani freed after appeal over student relationship".
  23. ^ Lee, Adam Cooper, Tammy Mills, Jane (9 June 2017). "Jail sentences for men guilty of terror-related offences too lenient, courts told". The Age.
  24. ^ "High profile Queens Counsel Robert Richter met with premier Will Hodgman over murder case". The Mercury. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  25. ^ "Pell Team 2017". Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  26. ^ Younger, court reporter Emma; staff (27 February 2019). "'Plain vanilla' case: Pell's lawyer argues for leniency as cardinal prepares for jail". ABC News. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  27. ^ "George Pell's lawyer Robert Richter apologises for 'plain vanilla' offending comments". ABC News. 28 February 2019. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  28. ^ Cooper, Royce Millar, Chris Vedelago, Adam (5 March 2019). "Robert Richter no longer part of George Pell's legal team for appeal". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  29. ^ "Prominent silk Robert Richter QC announces he will lead Sue Neill-Fraser's appeal hearing next week". The Mercury. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  30. ^ Knaus, Christopher (17 June 2021). "Witness K speaks for first time in open court as he pleads guilty to breaching secrecy laws". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2021.

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