NSW supreme court may revoke Dyson Heydon’s after-hours access card

Naaman Zhou
Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

The New South Wales supreme court will consider revoking a key card given to former high court justice Dyson Heydon that grants him after-hours access to “secure areas” of the building where more than 100 judge’s associates are still employed.

Last Monday, an independent investigation found that Heydon sexually harassed at least six judges’ associates at the high court between 2003 and 2013. He denies the claims.

The NSW supreme court has confirmed to Guardian Australia that Heydon still possesses an access card to secure areas of the court, which includes the research library and the private chambers of current judges, where associates and junior court staff work.

Related: Former high court justice Dyson Heydon sexually harassed staff, inquiry finds

The card grants access to “secure areas not accessible by the public”, a court spokeswoman said.

The NSW supreme court currently employs at least 118 tipstaves and associates, and the Law Courts building also houses the federal court and Sydney sittings of the high court.

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Associates and tipstaves work next to judges in their chambers, conduct research in the building’s library, and perform legal research and administrative tasks.

Their employment roles are dependent on their judges, but in the NSW supreme court, the position of tipstaff generally involves complex legal research, and is often filled by recent legal graduates. Tipstaff employment contracts in the NSW supreme court generally run for only one year, with new tipstaves hired each calendar year.

Heydon has not used his card since Monday 22 June, when the results of the investigation was announced by the high court, a court spokeswoman said.

The NSW supreme court did not comment on when this card was first given to Heydon or when he last used the card.

While the results of the investigation were announced last Monday, the high court said it had first become aware of allegations against Heydon in 2019.

When asked whether the NSW supreme court should have reconsidered Heydon’s access card while the investigation was ongoing, the spokeswoman said: “The high court investigation was confidential. The supreme court only became aware of it when it was announced in the media.”

“Mr Heydon has not used his card since the results of the investigation have been announced,” she said. “The question of revoking his card, or requesting he surrender it, is under consideration.”

Heydon previously served as a judge of the NSW supreme court from 2000 to 2003, before he was appointed to the high court.

Heydon has denied the allegations of harassment at the high court, and his lawyers Speed and Stracey issued a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald last week denying the allegations.

“In respect of the confidential inquiry and its subsequent confidential report, any allegation of predatory behaviour or breaches of the law is categorically denied by our client,” the firm said.

“Our client says that if any conduct of his has caused offence, that result was inadvertent and unintended, and he apologises for any offence caused.

“We have asked the high court to convey that directly to the associate complainants.”

Related: Dyson Heydon: high court invites 100 former associates to tell of their experiences

The high court has since written to more than 100 other former associates, inviting them to share their experiences at the court with the former inspector-general of intelligence and security, Dr Vivienne Thom, who led the investigation into Heydon.

The Australian Capital Territory’s chief prosecutor has also asked the Australian federal police to investigate the claims of harassment against the former judge.

Last week, the chief justice of the NSW supreme court, Tom Bathurst, announced the court would create a sexual harassment policy for the personal staff of judges.

Prior to the findings against Heydon, neither the NSW supreme court nor the high court had a sexual harassment policy specifically for associates and the personal staff of judges.

The court said in a statement on Tuesday 23 June: “Chief Justice Bathurst has confirmed that since his appointment in 2011, he had not been made aware of any claims or complaints of sexual harassment at the court.”