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Welcome Judge Barbara Cotterell


Cite as: (2008) 82(9) LIJ, p. 26

Judge Barbara Cotterell was welcomed as an acting judge to the County Court on 26 May. Among the speakers was LIV president Tony Burke. This is an edited version of his speech.

I appear on behalf of the LIV, and the solicitors of this state, to congratulate your Honour on your appointment as an acting judge of this Court.

It must be said that we have never appeared before the Court to welcome an acting judge.

With no disrespect intended to the Court or your Honour, the LIV is on the record as opposing the implementation of a system of acting judges when it was proposed by the government several years ago.

Like our colleagues at the Bar, we were concerned about the potential to affect the highest standards of judicial independence.

However, since the government has introduced legislation to allow such arrangements, we are keen to work with all parties to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place to protect judicial independence and to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

And while the government on the one hand, and the Bar and the LIV on the other, may disagree on the principle, we are united in one respect. Your Honour is a terrific appointment to the Court.

Our sources have been unanimous in their praise for your Honour’s qualities – dignity, fairness, tough-mindedness, intelligence and style.

You matriculated in 1959 from Toorak College in Mt Eliza and then did your Bachelor of Laws at Melbourne University between 1960 and 1964.

After university you completed articles with Robert C Taylor & Son in Frankston in 1965, which was a general practice.

Between 1966 and 1968 you lived in London with your husband. You worked in retail, and as a teacher. You also travelled widely in Europe, and spent long periods in Greece and Italy.

In 1968 you returned to Melbourne from London and worked in the family business, involving importing, manufacturing and selling furniture.

Fortunately you were not lost to the law, and in 1970 your admission to practice was moved by Dyson Hore-Lacy QC.

Not long after, in 1973, you went to the Bar.

You read with George Hampel QC, now Professor the Honourable George Hampel QC at Monash University.

He recalls a very bright pupil, who while reading became very interested in advocacy and criminal law; a woman with tremendous independence of mind, who always made the tough decisions.

At the Bar you had a wide practice, particularly in the areas of family law and criminal law.

You were at the Bar between 1973 and 1975, and then took another break from the law.

With your two children, Marcus and Samantha, you lived in Italy between 1975 and 1984.

You returned to Melbourne in 1984 and resumed practice at the Bar until 1989.

In 1990, you were appointed a magistrate by then Attorney-General Jim Kennan QC.

With now fellow judge, then magistrate, Lisa Hannan, you helped set up the committal mention court, and greatly contributed to submission work. You consulted with the government about changes to the Rules through your membership of the Criminal Law Committee.

You were also a member of the Sexual Offences Committee, and you were for three years a member of the Executive Committee of the Council of Magistrates.

You have also served as a Children’s Court magistrate. One of those who appeared before you, Michelle Hodgson, described you as “a model judicial officer”. She was moved to write to The Age in support of your appointment, and said last week that you treated all who appeared before you in many heartrending cases with dignity and respect.

You have also had an involvement in most of this state’s most notorious criminal cases.

Matthew Wales, Peter Dupas, several members of the Mokbel family and many other defendants have all come before you and been treated with courtesy and fairness.

You have stated a concern for the
devastating effects of alcohol abuse and resultant crime.

After 12 years on the Bench, you were described as being increasingly worried by tolerant attitudes to excessive drinking.

You said: “The prevalence of alcohol involvement in crimes of violence is something that anyone who has sat in court could not have failed to notice.

“Many of the assaults and serious injury cases, including manslaughter and murder charges, are committed under the influence.”

When away from the Bench, you regularly enjoy an Italian vacation.

I am advised that you have sometimes had difficulty tearing yourself away from your Italian adventures and were somewhat vague about the dates you were due to return to the Bench.

On one occasion, you rang from Italy to inquire from the Court coordinator when you were due back from leave.

“Yesterday,” he advised.

On behalf of the LIV and the solicitors of this state, I wish you a satisfying and rewarding service as a judge of this Court.


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