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Quick on the draw

Quick on the draw

By Carolyn Ford

Occupations Workplace 


In a packed court a pencil sketch of Cardinal George Pell’s expression at his sentencing was caught for the record by an illustrator. In October 1880, when Ned Kelly learned he would hang for the murder of police constable Thomas Lonigan, in court before Justice Redmond Barry, it was a sketch artist who captured the outlaw’s reaction with pen and paper for the Illustrated Australian News. The 25-year-old’s execution the following month at Melbourne Gaol was sketched, too. There’s the condemned man, the prison guards, the churchmen . . . and the rope. When Lindy Chamberlain received a life sentence for the murder of her 9-week-old daughter Azaria in a Darwin court in October 1982, it was illustrators who recorded her devastation. And when George Pell was sentenced in March for historic child sex crimes, the ageing Cardinal’s expression as he officially fell from grace was caught for the record – and global transmission – by an illustrator. That man was Paul Tyquin. His portrayal of George Pell was commissioned by Channel Nine and ricocheted around the world via AAP for publication everywhere from The Age in Melbourne to The Times in London. “The court was packed. Pell was led in with security guards around him. I was on the side of the courtroom, with a three-quarter view of Pell, who sat up the back,” Mr Tyquin recalls. “He looked very sad. He is a big, broad man, but stooped more these days. “Sometimes you only get a few minutes, but I had about 45 minutes to get a good likeness of him. I think I did, it’s for others to judge. He did look glum, that was his expression.” A pencil sketch of facial features and expression done, Mr Tyquin rushed back to Channel Nine, filled in skin tone and hair colour from a palette of more than 100 coloured markers and the now infamous face was ready for the 6pm nightly news bulletin. James Gargasoulas, who murdered six people and injured others with his speeding car in Bourke Street in 2017, was another of Mr Tyquin’s assignments for the TV network. “The first hearing went for about an hour because there were so many charges against him. “He just sat there . . . he seemed unconcerned, which was odd. He seemed quite relaxed considering the seriousness of the case. That’s what struck me.” For George Pell and James Gargasoulas, Mr Tyquin was filling in for Jeff Hayes who is Channel Nine’s main illustrator and has been covering the courts for the TV network since the late 1960s. His first assignment was a police conspiracy trial. In the 1980s, he would take a jar of water and a palette of watercolours to court. “It was messy and difficult.” Nowadays, he takes A3 paper, some grey leads and finishes the work later with ink and coloured pencils. Mr Hayes has done 800-plus drawings of people in court for Nine, including Borce Ristevski and Carl Williams. “It’s all about meeting deadlines, getting it down on paper and back to the TV station quickly. It’s sometimes difficult to get it done in the time you have, often as little as a few minutes. They are in and out. In initial hearings, you get five minutes if you are lucky. You have to use your visual memory,” Mr Hayes says. “As soon as they come in you look at them three-dimensionally. You look for an emotion or expression. Often there’s none. If that’s what their expression is, you concentrate on that. I try not to think of their criminality, I just think of the art side. “I draw what I see. When Carl Williams was in the Court of Appeal he saw his mother and smiled at her. I saw that. It was the most worthwhile image for me the whole day.” The conditions are often difficult, too. “You might be jostled by family members. I’ve had my seat kicked and heard obscene comments. “The media box is often very cramped. Sometimes I work standing up peering around someone’s shoulder. It can be quite difficult. But I like it. You go in with a blank sheet of paper and come out with something on it.” The third member of Nine’s trio of freelance illustrators is now retired Robert McDougall, another veteran of the business whose sketches show a who’s who of the law. He covered the trial of Lionel Murphy, the Costigan Inquiry and the Chamberlain trial. He vividly recalls the two-month NT court hearing, including the day the verdict was delivered. “She looked sad and shocked. He was so downcast. They were both shattered,” Mr McDougall recalls, adding it was a “gruelling” assignment. “Every day I would race out of court and finish the drawings in the open air with the light. It would go by cable to Mt Isa, then Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and then overseas.” Photography is prohibited in Australian courts during criminal trials. This is to protect the privacy of parties involved, the identities of jurors, and to prevent distractions. Sketch artists have a long tradition in the courts. Generally allowed, provided they are unobtrusive, illustrators go where cameras cannot. With fidelity to the moment, they bring the theatre of court to life, giving glimpses into trials most of the community would never otherwise see. It is access to justice via pen and ink. Their renderings capture a moment in time, conveying emotion and atmosphere, humanising the demonised. The arcane craft would seem at odds with the digital age. Mr Hayes is often asked where he gets the drawing software he must be using. But Supreme Court archives and records manager Joanne Boyd thinks it’s unlikely the court custom will change any time soon. “Here we are in the 21st century still drawing pictures of people. It’s to protect those involved, particularly the defendants but also witnesses. I doubt that will ever change. People need to be comfortable to be jurors and witnesses, so it is important they are anonymous. “The Pell illustration was interesting. We were relying on a third person to show us [Pell’s] reaction to the sentence. How they look is important to know. Journalists’ word pictures are really added to with illustrations. Otherwise, you are relying on photos of them getting out of prison vans.” Change has come to Victorian courts, however, in the interests of open justice. Australia’s first televised criminal court sentencing – of self-confessed child murderer Nathan Avent – was by the Hon Bernie Teague in May 1995 in the Supreme Court. Some criminal, civil and Appeal Court judges allow broadcasting – recorded and live, audio and video – of their sentences and judgments. It is not unusual in Victoria to hear a brief recording on the nightly news. The Supreme Court live streamed [with a 15-second delay] video of the Rebel Wilson verdict in September 2017 and of the Court of Appeal’s judgment in the matter in June 2018. Also recently, the sentencings of Tony John Smith in a domestic violence manslaughter case and Flinders Street driver Saeed Noori. In the Pell sentencing, it was the first time the County Court allowed a criminal sentence to be broadcast live. It went out across all networks and it stopped Australia. Millions around the world watched the ground-breaking live video of the Cardinal’s sentencing, with the camera only on Chief Judge Peter Kidd as he read out his 16-page judgment for the hour it took. “People were so interested in Chief Judge Kidd broadcasting the whole sentence,” Ms Boyd says. Similarly, much of Melbourne listened when, in 2011, Justice Paul Coghlan read out his sentencing remarks in the matter of Arthur Freeman who murdered his daughter Darcey. The broadcast was live on radio. Decades earlier, such was the level of public interest, the findings of the initial coroner’s inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain were broadcast live on television, but the trial of the Chamberlains was not. Sketch artists like Robert McDougall took the sequence of events to the community in his drawings. “The court was a solemn theatre. It was a mystery to people, most didn’t go to court, but there are these images and I drew drawings that would stand the test of time.”

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