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Welcome for Judge Kevin Doyle County Court of Victoria

Welcome for Judge Kevin Doyle 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 Kevin Doyle as a judge of this court.

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.

The diminutive Frank Vergona was a giant of VFA umpiring and your Honour’s Latin teacher at Xavier College.

Football was a common interest for master and pupil, but there was nothing shared between Your Honour and the classical language.

Fit and immaculately attired, Mr Vergona insisted on tidiness and punctuality.

But fellow Latin loafer, now barrister Sean Cash recalls how you each regularly disobeyed his strict edicts.

Your Honour would eventually lob into class looking disheveled - possibly from an unforgiving kick-to-kick session flying for “speccies” in 20-strong packs and crashing onto concrete.

Severely reprimanded, young Doyle and Cash would slouch to their desks immemores ... that’s Latin, Your Honour, for disinterested.

Latin, however, was the exception to Your Honour’s academic performance as Mr Cash remembers a mate with a strong intellect who somehow cruised through exams.

Still, he reckons if you’d paid more attention in class you wouldn’t have later questioned the sanity of a former judge of this court who once asked if he was functus officio.

Having fulfilled schooling, Your Honour attended Monash University for an Arts/Law degree.

Geelong-based solicitor Simon Northeast – another school friend – recalls that while others hauled back packs stuffed with books to law lectures, Your Honour carried a single page of paper.

It reflected an uncanny ability to retain detailed facts, but it also comfortably accommodated your ant-sized handwriting.

He reckoned your outwardly disorganised state mirrored a mechanic whose tools littered the workshop but who knew where everything was ... and, more importantly, knew how to use them.

Mr Northeast says Your Honour’s common touch, lack of pretence and 32 years absorbed in the criminal law ensures a terrific career as a judge.       

At your first job in 1987 - as solicitor/duty lawyer at the then Legal Aid Commission in Dandenong - Your Honour met Cheri Lee, then with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.

The next year you joined VALS and on day one, says Ms Lee, Your Honour sauntered in, late, shouldering an old school bag and botted a cigarette.

Laid-back and laconic maybe, but ever a caring, deep-thinking lawyer with the right temperament for challenges, she recalls.   

Until you left in 1990, you never openly complained about the relentless workload undertaken throughout suburban and country courts, the many often difficult clients and the 24-hour on-call duties.

While the chaotic state of your room reflected more than just an inhabitant unconcerned about structure, it was also deceiving. 

When the office was once burgled, investigating police mistook its state as having been trashed during the crime.   

“Actually,” you fessed, “it was like that before.”

Through Your Honour’s help, Jennifer Nielsen obtained articles at VALS and remembers your phenomenal ability to retain detailed facts – old clients and instructions, circumstances and offending.

Now Associate Professor in the School of Law and Justice at the Southern Cross University in NSW, Ms Nielsen remembers you as smart, clever, fair and funny.

Greg Smith, now a judge of the Local Court in the Northern Territory, did work experience at VALS and struck a lasting friendship with Your Honour.

Like others, His Honour reports that your then somewhat disorganised ways did not reflect a disorganised mind.

At the Legal Aid Commission between 1991 and 1995, Your Honour acted as a criminal duty lawyer and advocate and in child protection matters in the Children’s Court.

You then became a solicitor in the Commission’s Criminal Law Division in indictable crime and early resolution, conducting numerous pleas in mitigation.

In 1992, Your Honour was a representative for the Commission with other stakeholders in the Pegasus Taskforce, an initiative of then Chief Justice John Phillips to address delays in criminal proceedings.

Work by then-magistrate Linda Dessau – now Victorian Governor – culminated in the Pegasus Report which was lauded as establishing a modern analysis for improving the criminal justice process.

In an attempt, perhaps, to impress Ms Dessau with your advocacy skills in an unrelated court matter, Your Honour and a fellow Pegasus contributor, solicitor Phillip Raimondo of the OPP, prepared well.

Mimicking TV newsreaders David Johnston and Jana Wendt, you alternated rehearsed one-line submissions and responses for a simple, unopposed application to vary bail.

Her Honour’s puzzled look was most instructive.

There are many OPP solicitors today personally disappointed to have lost their favorite “Crownie”, but equally delighted at your appointment.

Everyone – instructors, witnesses, police, opponents, court staff – were treated with the utmost respect, which was reciprocated.

A common theme among its solicitors included Your Honour’s genuineness and calmness.

You listened, thought clearly and communicated effectively in uncomplicated terms.

And when a hard case closed, a verdict was announced or a court adjourned, like others Your Honour sought to relax.

One distraction was reality TV game shows, particularly Australian Survivor where marooned contestants compete in challenges for rewards.

Its elimination ceremonies at the Tribal Council holds participants accountable across a fire pit.

One dares not contemplate the introduction of similar structural changes to future gatherings of the Council of Judges of this court.

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