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Welcome for Judge Anne Hassan County Court of Victoria

Welcome for Judge Anne Hassan County Court of Victoria

By LIV Media


May it please the court

I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria and the solicitors of this state to welcome Your Honour Anne Hassan as a judge of the County Court of Victoria.

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we gather and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present, and to any Elders with us today.

From the outset, may I say how frustrating it must be for Your Honour in not being able to celebrate – yet – the fact that you have attained silk.

All things come in good time – but Your Honour has short-circuited the usual route,  leap-frogged the Bar table, and landed with your stylish Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin heels under the Bench of this fine Court.

Well done.

On a Thursday in October you were named as a senior counsel, and less than a week later – you were appointed to the Bench.

A joyously short career, if we may say so!

Indeed, former Chief Justice Marilyn Warren has suggested it smashes what she believes is the record set by Justice William Gummow, who was appointed silk in late 1986 and six weeks later joined the Federal Court.

Justice Gummow, of course, later joined the High Court.

May we suggest, your Honour, all in good time, all in good time …

After attending Toorak College on the Mornington Peninsula, where you were brought up, you completed first year at the University of Melbourne before departing for what today might be called a “gap” year.

That “gap” ultimately spanned eight fabulous years during which you based yourself in London, working for one of the big news-photography agencies and taking every opportunity to travel while doing the Aussie-in-London thing and living in a “squat”.

You were 26 when you returned to Melbourne to recommence studies.

You did a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English Literature, and at one stage Your Honour was named on the Dean of Arts’ List for exceptional performance.

You also completed a Bachelor of Law with Honours, graduating in 1999 with especially strong marks in Civil Law subjects and Evidence,.

Your Honour’s first job in law was in 2001 as an associate to Justice Warren in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

At the time, Justice Warren was in charge of the Commercial list, now known as the Commercial Court.

It was a very busy docket, and associates in those days did much administrative management as well as liaising with solicitors and barristers.

Your calm, courteous, good-humoured and professional manner was very much appreciated by the profession.

One of those early Commercial cases involved the epic tale of the Anaconda nickel mine deal, a case that, shall we say, slithered along, pitching Anaconda’s chief executive Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest against “Diamond” Joe Gutnick of Centaur Mining.

You sat entranced – or so we are told – as the Court delved into laterite nickel provinces and gold hedges, the argy-bargy of negotiating with New York banks, the finer details of complex share sale agreements, and the passion and vigour that lie behind high-stakes.

Suffice to say, it was a hard-fought and hard-swearing case and there was some four-lettered evidence about what Mr Forrest wanted to do to the US bondholders – we will not repeat it here.

Indeed, a lawyer at one point keeled over in a dreadful faint …

Justice Warren expected your career would flourish in commercial and equity law, and she urged you to pursue that path.

But to her surprise, you ignored her and instead turned your attention to crime.

Your first criminal case as Justice Warren’s associate was the tragic knifing of a 16 year old boy in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, a matter that led a perpetrator to jail and another young man to be acquitted.

This case had a weighty effect on Your Honour, one that would strongly influence the course of your career.

Here before you were matters of people’s liberty, not their fortunes.

It seemed to you that their lives were often (QUOTE) “pitched at the outer extreme of human experience”.

After two years with Chief Justice Warren, you joined the Bar in 2003, reading under Jane Dixon of counsel (now Justice Dixon of the Supreme Court), where you assisted with many criminal and coronial inquest cases.

In 2009, you joined the Crown Prosecutor’s office, where you prosecuted murders in the Supreme Court and worked for some years as a junior counsel covering the difficult area of sexual offences cases.

Your Honour found this latter area relentless, yet personally rewarding – dealing with highly vulnerable victims – children and adults – in an area where the laws at the time were complex and not entirely settled.

You returned to the Bar after six years at the Crown Prosecutors’ office, and flourished with both prosecution and defence briefs.

You have been a fine mentor to juniors – Jordon O’Toole of the Bar, who had the honour and pleasure of being mentored by you in recent months.

He says you are an enthusiastic connoisseur of fine dining and that you revel in discovering every excellent haunt in this good city.

Your Honour is also known as a very stylish and elegant follower of fashion, and one of your most prized possessions is a Balenciaga bag purchased from Barney’s in New York.

So it is a great pity to other fashion-followers that your range of fine designer garments will be hidden under Your Honour’s courtroom attire.

Your longstanding passion for all things Shakespeare and your wickedly dry wit was on public display last year when you were a valiant junior to Fiona McLeod of counsel in an uproarious production of Please, Continue (Hamlet).

The play was performed at the State Theatre in October 2017 – each night with a different cast of characters from the Victorian legal profession.

Ms McLeod certainly lays no blame on you as her junior but, as it happened, your client – the Danish prince Hamlet, who knifed Polonius through a curtain – was left in limbo when the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Ms McLeod respectfully suggests prosecutor Dr Matthew Collins spun a lurid tale to the jury, and to this day she mutters something about Hamlet being “done over … remember Lindy Chamberlain, dingo …”, and so on.

Your Honour is an avid follower of the Richmond Football Club, which has finally found luck in recent years – not doubt to the chagrin of your partner, Nick, who remains a steadfastly misguided fan of the Saints.

Lastly, may we relate what happened when that lawyer keeled over in court.

Chief Justice Warren recalls hearing a loud crash as the man toppled backwards from the witness stand.

Her Honour swiftly exited the Court to allow you, as her associate, to sort out the commotion, and on your return a few minutes later she enquired how he was doing.

“Is he alright?” she asked. “Does he need anything? Did you give him a glass of water?”

“No,” you replied, chirpily. “I gave him a banana.”

And so, on behalf of the Law Institute, we congratulate Your Honour and may you have a cornucopia of bananas to hand as you proceed onwards and upwards with a fine new career at the Bench.

May it please the Court.

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