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Welcome Judge Roy Punshon

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Cite as: (2003) 77(6) LIJ, p.34

Recently appointed County Court Judge Roy Punshon was welcomed to the County Court at a ceremony on 11 April 2003. Among the speakers was Law Institute president Bill O’Shea. An edited version of his speech follows.

On behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria and representing the solicitors of this state, it is my pleasure to welcome someone as eminently qualified for a place on the Bench of this honourable Court as your Honour.

There has been much talk about your Honour’s debt to a range of mentors throughout your career – Frank Vincent, Jim and Ted Hill, and the now Judge Higgins, to name but a few. But your Honour has been just such a mentor in the lives and careers of others in the law.

Your Honour’s capacity to inspire colleagues was evident early in your career while you were working as a junior solicitor at Slater & Gordon. Little did you know that by sending an articled clerk a year or two your junior to instruct Dyson Hore-Lacy in 1972, you would determine that young clerk’s career path to this very day.

The articled clerk was Lex Lasry and the case was to defend an establishment called Whisky A Go Go which stood accused of staging indecent performances. The presiding judge eventually found that words did not do justice to the alleged obscenity and ordered, at three in the afternoon no less, that the show be staged right there in the courtroom. The judge observed the performance stoically – everybody else was watching the judge, of course – and eventually found your Honour’s clients guilty.

By foregoing the opportunity to work on this case, and allowing Lex Lasry to do so in your stead, your Honour certainly exposed the young clerk to the criminal law in a way that would guarantee his ongoing interest.

In all seriousness, your Honour has been a role model for fellow barristers over many years. Your approach to each case as if it were your first is a lesson that has not been lost on those who have worked with you. They talk of your unparalleled skills in cross-examination, the thoroughness of your preparation, your razor-sharp intellect and your dauntingly high standards with conflicting feelings – with awe and admiration for you as a barrister and with corresponding fear now they will have to appear before you as a judge.

Before your elevation to the Bench, you had already made a significant mark on criminal law. Your work in the Pollard case in 1992 rewrote the rules for the police when recording testimony. The following year, your arguments in the Faure case were persuasive enough to be upheld at appeal and led to the now well-established Faure warning requirement. In these and in many other regards, your three decades as a criminal lawyer, characterised always by intellectual rigour, respect for the law and passion for justice, make your elevation timely, welcome and deeply gratifying.

You have always been passionate about your political views, deeply committed to social justice and fervent in your belief that the legal profession has a role in promoting a fairer and more just society.

Your Honour’s work as vice chair, then chair of the Criminal Bar Association has rightly earned plaudits across the legal profession. You brought to both roles the same kind of focus, dedication and determination to make a difference that marks your career. The Criminal Bar Association has never been more influential in government policy, or more relevant in the contemporary justice debate, than it is now – most would agree that you have played a significant role in making that the case.

There is, of course, much more to your life than the law. You are dedicated to Margaret and your three children.

With the demise of South Melbourne, you chose to support the Western Bulldogs Football Club – a decision that I am certain was not made as a technique for recruiting clients.

Fellow Bulldogs supporters have reported to me that you take to the role of spectator at Bulldogs games the same calm, clinical, analytical approach that is the hallmark of your professional life. The only difference where you are concerned is that in the courtroom of the football field, the accused is always the umpire and the verdict invariably guilty.

Your Honour may wish to take the opportunity presented by your elevation to the Bench to reconsider this attitude now that football umpires are now, in a roundabout way, your colleagues.

May I once again congratulate you on your elevation to this honourable Court, commend your appointment and, on behalf of the Law Institute and the solicitors we represent, wish you all the best for the future.

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