Stephen Estcourt

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Stephen Estcourt
Stephen Estcourt.jpg
Born (1953-03-20) 20 March 1953 (age 63)
Hobart, Tasmania
Nationality Australian
Alma mater University of Tasmania
Occupation Lawyer
Spouse(s) Mary Estcourt (m. 1976)=

Justice Stephen Peter Estcourt (born 20 March 1953 in Hobart, Tasmania) is an Australian judge, who has been Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania since April 2013. From 2004 to 2013, he maintained barristers' chambers in Hobart and Melbourne, dividing his time between the two.


Estcourt was educated at New Town High School and Elizabeth Matriculation College and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree with Honours from the University of Tasmania in 1974.


After 15 years as a barrister and solicitor with the firm of Archer Bushby in Launceston, Escourt was appointed as a Magistrate in 1990 sitting in Hobart. Estcourt left the Court in 1994 to establish the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal for the Tasmanian Government. After 2 years as the inaugural Chair of that body he resigned to join the Tasmanian Independent Bar in late 1995.

Estcourt "took silk" in 1998 and as Queen's Counsel practiced extensively in the civil and criminal jurisdictions of the Supreme Court of Tasmania and in the Federal and High Courts of Australia. Estcourt was President of the Law Society of Tasmania in 1988 and between 2003 and 2007 was President of the Tasmanian Independent Bar. In 2006 he was elected President of the Australian Bar Association, a position he held until January 2008. Estcourt signed the Victorian Bar Roll in September 2004.[1] By the end of 2011, Estcourt was a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.[2]

In 2001 Estcourt was appointed a part-time Deputy President of the Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal and sat all over Australia hearing chiefly visa refusal and deportation cases. He left the AAT in 2004 as a result of philosophical objections to Attorney General Philip Ruddock's apparent oversight and appointment practices.

In September 2011, Estcourt was cited in Australian Parliament by the Prime Minister of Australia in response to questions from the members for Stirling[3] and McEwen[4] relating to asylum seekers.

In March 2013, the Attorney General of Tasmania, Brian Wightman, announced Estcourt's appointment as a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania.[5]


He has a pro bono ethic[6] and has been involved in a number of significant public interest cases in Hobart, Melbourne and in Brisbane, among them Commonwealth of Australia v Wood,[7] Sok v Minister for Immigration,[8] Minister for Immigration v X[9] and QAAA v Minister for Immigration.[10] These also included a rarely permitted intervention in the High Court of Australia on behalf of the UNHCR as amicus curiae in Minister for Immigration v QAAH.[11] In 2009 he was engaged pro bono from Melbourne as senior counsel in litigation against the Tasmanian Government over conditions in Behavioural Management Unit in Tasmania’s Risdon Prison.[12]

Estcourt was President of the ABA during the infamous arrest and detention of Gold Coast doctor Mohammed Haneef and famously said when informed by the Sydney Morning Herald of Immigration Minister Andrew's cancellation of Haneef’s visa after a Brisbane magistrate had granted him bail "He can’t do that",[13] an opinion ultimately shared by the Full Federal Court of Australia [14]

Among his more notable cases[15] Estcourt acted for the Tasmanian Deputy Premier Bryan Green in his criminal trial on charges under the Criminal Code arising from the granting of a monopoly to the Tasmanian building industry regulator. Estcourt's involvement in that trial led to an allegation that he had entered into an illegal bargain with the Tasmanian Government to be appointed the Solicitor General for Tasmania in exchange for acting for Green without fee.[16][17] That rumour was judicially debunked by Justice Evans in State of Tasmania v Johnston,[18] but prior to that the Hobart Mercury newspaper falsely reported that Estcourt had declined to be interviewed about the matter by Tasmania Police. He sued the Mercury and its reporter Sue Neales for defamation and the settlement in Estcourt's favour involved what was at the time the largest judgement for damages for defamation in Tasmanian legal history,[19] as well as fulsome official and personal apologies from the Editor[citation needed].

Personal life[edit]

Estcourt married Mary McDevitt in 1976. In 2010, he co-organised a multicural festival, World Party Tas.[20] The event was repeated in 2012 and the Tasmanian Premier, Ms Lara Giddings, congratulated him on his involvement.[21] In 2011, Estcourt was a Tasmanian State Finalist[22] for the Australian of the Year awards


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  3. ^;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2F9273d8f9-c390-4d28-81ec-80e436f0f4d4%2F0110%22
  4. ^;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2F9d23419d-b801-43c9-b4d4-20152cc8bff9%2F0119%22
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  6. ^ "Mother takes on Defence over teen's suicide". The Age. 
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  12. ^ "Inmate's prison cell hell". The Mercury. 
  13. ^ "Haneef detained after bail win". Sydney Morning Herald. 
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  16. ^ "Tasmanian police chief Jack Johnston granted bail on secrets charge". The Australian. 
  17. ^ "Lennon tip-off claim". The Mercury. 
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