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Obituary: Lidia Grace Scafidi

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Cite as: September 2013 87 (9) LIJ, p.31

3 April 1983 – 23 July 2013

Judges’ associate, criminal defence lawyer, humanist

Lidia grew up and was educated in Western Australia. Her father was Sicilian and her mother Australian. Lidia was one of four children, including elder brothers David and Ambrose and younger sister Chiara. She attended the University of Western Australia and was conferred a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of laws. Her major in the arts was Italian and she also devoted time to literature, a love which she continued to foster throughout her life. She was well read and also well travelled. During her undergraduate studies, she moved to Denmark to study for a year and would later live and work in New York as a judge’s associate.

Lidia moved to Victoria in 2008 and lived in and around the inner-northern suburbs. Although she was not a native Melburnian, she had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the restaurants and alleyway bars of our town. She loved to dine out and was a wonderful raconteur, her tall stories infused with a sense of wicked fun.

She took up an associateship at the County Court in 2008 and worked with Judge David Parsons before assisting Judge Margaret Rizkalla in July 2009. During 2009 and 2010, she was associate to Judge Roy Punshon. It was during this time that she also worked in the United States. She looked back on her years at the County Court with particular fondness. She was dedicated to serving her judges and spoke with reverence of their work and of the advocates that appeared in their courtrooms. Practitioners who dealt with her in that role were appreciative of her professionalism and knowledge of the inner workings of the Court.

Following her associateship, Lidia was admitted in the Supreme Court of Western Australia in August 2010. Driven to providing assistance to the downtrodden and the marginalised, which would prove a theme throughout her work, she took a position as a criminal defence lawyer with Doogue O’Brien George. The balance of her career was served with the firm and she also volunteered with the Women’s Legal Service.

Lidia was an accomplished instructing solicitor. Although her career was in its relative infancy, Lidia’s practice saw her make numerous important contributions to the criminal law in Victoria. The notable matters she was involved with included: CMG v the Queen which concerned the reliability of child witnesses in sex offence cases; DPP v Werry which was a prosecution appeal that was dismissed and restriction placed on the use of such appeals to increase sentencing ranges; and Guariglia v the Queen which saw her client’s appeal upheld, retrials ordered, a prosecution application for leave to appeal to the High Court successfully defended and, ultimately, all charges discontinued. The latter was one of her happiest achievements, which she shared with Carmen Randazzo SC and Daniel Sala. Lidia managed all of these matters while also maintaining her busy summary crime and trial practice. She was a compelling advocate – her wit and courage meant that she was impressive on her feet.

One of the last major bodies of work which Lidia produced was Khalid Baker’s Petition of Mercy. She single-handedly prepared the earlier High Court Appeal in the matter and instructed Michael Croucher SC (now of the Supreme Court) and Lachie Carter. The conduct of the appeal and the petition saw Lidia painstakingly deal with vast volumes of depositions and legal authorities. She did this on a pro bono basis.

With John Desmond and Richard Edney, Lidia took on Peter Dupas’ most recent appeal to the Court of Appeal. She also performed this work on a pro bono basis. While the appeal was not upheld, the Court’s judgment has had important consequences in a number of areas. Indicative of her unshakeable belief in the importance of access to justice, her carriage of the matter (among others) has seen her shortlisted for this year’s LIV Access to Justice Award. She would have been a worthy, if somewhat embarrassed recipient of the award. Lidia would downplay her work and was always humble of her achievements.

Lidia was only 30 when she passed away suddenly as a result of a brief illness. The sheer volume of people in the criminal law community that have been affected by her untimely passing is both a bitter reminder and at the same time a true comfort to her colleagues – to know that others feel our pain. Lidia’s humanity, her drive and her intellect were widely respected by the judiciary, other defence lawyers, prosecutors and police members alike. Perhaps most importantly, she was admired by her clients and their families. Her humour and her ability to connect with people from all walks of life were particular features of her personality. Upon hearing of her passing, a client’s mother wrote:

“I know there is nothing I can say that is going to make you and your staff feel any better about this tragedy. You all seem like a very close team. Just know that we are all thinking of you and be proud that you all had the pleasure of knowing and working with her. We certainly are. She was beautiful”.



ADAM CHERNOK for and on behalf of Doogue O’Brien George, criminal defence lawyers.

Comments

David Scafidi
Thank you.
26/09/2013 10:12:04 PM


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