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Farewell Judge Graeme Crossley


Cite as: (2003) 77(10) LIJ, p.27

Judge Graeme Crossley was farewelled from the County Court at a ceremony on 28 August. Among the speakers was Law Institute Criminal Law Section chair Rob Stary. An edited version of his speech follows.

As we have heard, your Honour was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School and the University of Melbourne.

You signed the roll of counsel in 1965 and read with Van Tolhurst. In 1984, four months after taking silk, you were appointed to this Court.

There has been mention this afternoon of the fact that you were the last judicial figure to win the “Beak of the Year” award on Ross Stephenson’s 3AW radio program.

We have been reliably informed that the award – the size of a cassowary beak – has indeed taken pride of place in your Honour’s chambers. The state’s solicitors are indeed interested to know whether you will take the award home or bequeath it to another judge of this Court.

As you were quoted as saying in the Law Institute Journal last year (March 2002, pp16-25), the attraction of a life on the Bench is strong.

You saw it as a unique opportunity to continue to be part of the “bear pit” of litigation. You are known for displays of disarming honesty and good humour.

As you aptly put in the Law Institute Journal article: “You want to realise that when they say to you ‘with the utmost respect’ that is a euphemism for ‘you idiot, stop and listen’”.

Your Honour has always found a place for gentle humour in this Court. One example comes to mind.

A barrister, it was reported, informed this Court that his client was suffering from memory problems so acute that he was unable to remember the names of former Australian Prime Ministers.

Going through the list – Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page, Francis Michael Forde ...

“Some of them have been pretty forgettable,” your Honour quipped.

When first elevated to this Bench, you were advised by then County Court Judge Harry Ogden that the only audience you had to worry about in sentencing was the accused in the dock.

But your Honour has made it clear that there are in fact three audiences – the accused, the Court of Appeal and the public through the press.

In one case, according to the Law Institute Journal article, your Honour faced two alternatives in sentencing – either you were “going to be portrayed in the press as another silly old judge who is totally out of touch with the demands of the community and give a ridiculously light sentence” or (and I quote again) you would be portrayed as a “judge who was seriously concerned, had limit to his power, but bore this all in mind and did the best he could within the law”.

Your Honour came up with a sensible strategy in distributing written copies to the media of the reason for the sentence. The result was balanced media coverage and an editorial in one of the newspapers calling on Parliament to give judges more powers.

Your Honour has been able to achieve one thing that some of your colleagues on the Bench can only aspire to – faith in the media reporting of the courts.

Your Honour has presided over many high-profile cases over the years, an indication that you have a great capacity for hard work and rarely knocked back an invitation to preside over a trial.

You have also been a tireless worker for the Court, giving countless speeches, attending judicial conferences and visiting jails.

We contacted your Honour’s former associate Peter Price and he told us a story about how he was driving you to Kerang when, already late for circuit, he was pulled up for speeding.

The police officer said: “Bad luck mate. You’re booked for speeding”.

Mr Price replied: “Officer, I’ve got the judge on board and we’re late for court”.

The officer said: “Geez mate, let’s not muck about here. Jump in your car and follow us”.

Hence, your Honour arrived on time.

The appeals were heard first on the list and proceedings took place.

Two Melbourne barristers who were due to appear were late and matters were duly stood down. When they finally arrived, the barristers tried to explain their lateness.

Much to the mirth of the police in Court, you responded: “If my associate can get me here on time, there is no reason why you should be late”.

It is the widespread opinion of the profession that your Honour has been the model of an exceptionally good judge.

You have embraced change and leave this Court much improved, and for this we are in your debt.

Once again, on behalf of the solicitors of Victoria I congratulate your Honour on an outstanding career on the Bench and wish you well in a long and much deserved retirement.


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