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On the Couch
7 September, 2007  
Chester Porter

After a “walking-on-water” sort of career Chester Porter QC retired from the NSW bar in 2000. He’d been advocating for 52 years. Since then he’s written two books; an autobiography, and an exploration of the criminal justice system and how the law can get it wrong. Now he’s On the Couch, where he reveals he prefers the Dali Lama to Peter Costello


imageChester Porter attended university with E.G. Whitlam – so that gives you some idea of great sweep of history under his belt.

His first case was one of “insulting words” where a young lady was charged with saying: “Shut your bloody mouth and give your arse a go.” From this enchanting beginning Porter got a taste for the criminal law and went on to work on numerous celebrated cases and inquiries, including the second Voyager and the Lindy Chamberlain Royal Commissions.

He acted for the crook copper Roger Rogerson, who was charged with attempting to bride undercover policeman Mick Drury; for the NSW Bar Association in opposing the application for admission of Wendy Bacon; for judge John Foord, who was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice over the Morgan Ryan case; and for Andrew Kalajzich, who got 25-years for hiring a hit man to murder his wife.

The lifelong crim Neddy Smith thought so highly of his forensic skills that he yelped: “You fuckin’ beauty, Chester Porter is the man – get him regardless of the expense.”

He is the father of poet Dorothy Porter, who soothed him in the face of criticism: “They say you’re a first class cross-examiner. Who cares what else they say?”

In 2003 Porter published his memoirs, Walking on Water: A Life in the Law (Random House). His latest offering is The Conviction Of The Innocent: How The Law Can Let Us Down (Random House).

Describe yourself in three words
Concerned, thinking, hopeful.

What are you currently reading?
Nice Work” by David Lodge and “Villette” by Charlotte Bronte.

Whats your favourite film?
High Noon.”

Who or what do you fantasise about?
The beauty of living things.

What stimulants do you recommend?
Hope and love.

What is your greatest fear?
The unknown.

What words of phrases do you overuse?
However” and “Of course”.

Who would you most like to meet?
The Dalai Lama.

Who do you envy and why?
Computer experts. I am computer illiterate.

What is your most disturbing personal obsession?
imageLoss of my short-term memory.

What is your most glamorous feature?
Pass.

If you were a foodstuff, what would you be?
An egg.

What human quality do you most mistrust?
Hypocrisy.

What would you change about Australia?
There should be a Bill of Rights.

Who or what do you consider overrated?
Peter Costello as Treasurer.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Make my wife a cup of tea and feed my dog.

How would you like to die?
Peacefully.

What would your epitaph say?
He tried.”

When you shut your eyes and thing of the word “law”, what comes to mind?
There is so much to reform and everyone is too busy to effect reform.