William Simpson (judge)

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Mr Justice
William Simpson
Justice, Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory
In office
24 October 1945 – 30 April 1960
Personal details
Born 12 June 1894
Balmain, New South Wales
Died 24 November 1966
Marrickville, New South Wales
Nationality Australian
Spouse(s) Dorothy Blackley
Children Two sons
Alma mater Sydney University
Occupation Barrister

William Ballantyne Simpson (12 June 1894 – 24 November 1966) was an Australian soldier, barrister, Army officer, administrator and Supreme Court judge.

Early life[edit]

Simpson was born in Balmain, a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales. He was educated at Fort Street Boys' High School. His father was a barrister and William enrolled in Law at Sydney University.[1]

In December 1916 Simpson deferred his Law studies and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. In January 1918 he was sent to the Western Front where he served as a driver.[Note 1] He returned to Australia in April 1919 and was discharged from the A.I.F.[1]

Civilian life[edit]

Simpson resumed his Law studies at Sydney University in 1919. He graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Laws and was admitted to the Bar in 1920. In his practice as a barrister he specialised in legal actions related to motor-vehicle accidents.[1]

Simpson was a member of the Nationalist Party of Australia and in the period 1922 – 1925 he nominated for three elections – both State and Federal – but without success.[1]

In 1925 he married Dorothy Margaret Peel Blackley with whom he had two sons.[1]

Second Australian Imperial Force[edit]

External image
Photograph of William Simpson taken in 1942.

In 1922 Simpson joined the Militia as a legal officer. In 1941 he was attached to the Second Australian Imperial Force with the rank of temporary Brigadier. He was sent to the Middle East where he served as deputy judge advocate-general of the 2nd A.I.F.[2] He returned to Australia in June 1942 and was appointed deputy judge advocate-general at Land Headquarters in Melbourne.[1][3]

National security[edit]

In September 1942 Simpson was appointed Director-General of Security in Australia. The director-general of security was Head of the Commonwealth Security Service and was based in Canberra.[3] In this role Simpson reported to the Attorney-General, Herbert Evatt, who was his contemporary at Fort Street Boys’ High School and Sydney University.[1]

The Commonwealth Security Service investigated organisations and individuals considered likely to be subversive or actively opposed to the nation’s interests. It investigated espionage and sabotage. It vetted defence-force personnel and workers in defence-related industries. It controlled the issue of passports and visas. It was responsible for the security of airports and wharves, and factories engaged in manufacture of munitions and other items necessary for Australia’s war effort. It was responsible for radio security. Simpson was also responsible for identification of enemy aliens, and for their internment and release.[1]

In November 1944 Simpson was discharged from the Army[4] and continued as a civilian in his role as director-general of security. In June 1945 he produced a report warning of the danger of the Communist Party of Australia.[1]

Supreme Court[edit]

In October 1945 Simpson resigned as director-general of security and was appointed the sole judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory.[2][3] Concurrent with his role as Supreme Court judge, Simpson was also the judge advocate-general of the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force.[1][5]

Justice Simpson gave advice on the findings of war crimes tribunals in Australia.[1]

In 1947-48 Justice Simpson chaired an inquiry into the cost of producing wheat in Australia.[1][6]

Air accidents[edit]

Justice Simpson chaired Air Courts of Inquiry into three major aviation accidents in Australia:

Shipping accident[edit]

In November 1947 Justice Simpson chaired the Commonwealth Court of Marine Inquiry into the stranding of the 9,786-ton motor vessel Reynella on a reef. On 18 August 1947, while sailing from Lae, Papua New Guinea to Sydney, the Reynella became stranded on a reef in the Jomard Passage in the Louisiade Archipelago. There was no injury or loss of life, and the Reynella was refloated on 12 September 1947.[21]

Justice Simpson found the Reynella’s Captain was careless in his navigation and ordered his certificate of competency to be suspended for six months.[22]

Later life[edit]

Mr Justice Simpson retired from the Supreme Court in April 1960 suffering from Parkinson's disease. He died in Marrickville, a Sydney suburb, in November 1966.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Simpson served with the 11th Field Company, Engineers.[1]
  2. ^ One passenger survived the crash of the Amana but died in hospital six days later.[17]
  3. ^ Australia's most deadly civil aviation accidents were the Amana in 1950 and Trans Australia Airlines Flight 538 in 1960. Both caused the death of all 29 people on board. Flight 538 was a Fokker F27 Friendship which crashed into the sea at night while preparing to land at Mackay, Queensland.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Horner, Jolyon, Simpson, William Ballantyne (1896 - 1966) Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 2011-10-08
  2. ^ a b "A.C.T. Supreme Court Judge" The Canberra Times - 25 October 1945, p.4 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-10-08
  3. ^ a b c "Judge Simpson Welcomed In Supreme Court" The Canberra Times - 6 December 1945, p.4 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-11-09
  4. ^ World War II Nominal Roll (Australian War Memorial) Retrieved 2012-10-15
  5. ^ "New Army Advocate-General" The Canberra Times - 29 March 1946, p.3 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-11-09
  6. ^ "Wheat Costs To Be Investigated" The Argus - 23 January 1947, p.6 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-10-08
  7. ^ "Court To Inquire Into Hobart Air Crash" The Argus – 25 April 1946, p.20 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-10-08
  8. ^ "Air Safety Advice By Judge" The Mercury - 12 June 1946, p.2 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-10-08
  9. ^ Job 1992, p. 51
  10. ^ "Passengers And Crew Killed When Plane Hit Mountain Peak" The Canberra Times - 6 September 1948, p.1 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-10-08
  11. ^ "Inquiry Into Lutana Air Crash" The Canberra Times - 17 September 1948, p.4 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-10-08
  12. ^ Job 1992, p. 74
  13. ^ "Lutana Disaster Inquiry Report Tabled" The Sydney Morning Herald - 25 November 1948, p.4 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-11-09
  14. ^ Job 1992, p. 76
  15. ^ "Judge Simpson Attacked in Senate on Lutana Finding" The Canberra Times - 2 December 1948, p.4 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-11-09
  16. ^ "Who Questions Judicial Findings?" The Canberra Times - 2 December 1948, p.4 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-12-02
  17. ^ "Plane Crash Survivor" The West Australian - 3 July 1950, p.2 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-10-13
  18. ^ "Twenty-Eight Lives Lost In Air Crash" The West Australian - 28 June 1950, p.1 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-10-08
  19. ^ "Inquiry On Amana" The West Australian - 13 January 1951, p.1 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-10-08
  20. ^ Job 1992, p. 131
  21. ^ "Inquiry Into Stranding Of Ship Opened" The Mercury - 4 November 1947, p.10 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-10-10
  22. ^ "Judge suspends Reynella captain" The Argus – 20 November 1947, p.3 (National Library of Australia) Retrieved 2011-11-10