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Evan Whitton
30 May, 2005  
It was snoozing Judge Dodd who elicited the truth about the prisons

Lord Chancellor King, Sir Philip Yorke, Al Grassby, John Maddison, Snoozing Judge Dodd and Willie Watson aka Lord Thankerton all get a mention here. The point is that doze as he might now, 30 years ago Ian Dodd achieved more for the public weal than most barristers do in a lifetime on the drone


Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care

W. Shakespeare (Macbeth, 1606)

Indeed it does. When droning barristers drove me to the bosom of Morpheus, my last waking thought was invariably: “If only they could bottle that stuff and sell it to insomniacs … ”

Sydney barristers have lately been mildly censorious of judges who tend to nod off, but what do they expect? When judges, possibly for reasons no more sinister than sloth, amazingly handed over control of the legal process to trial lawyers, the unspoken concordat was that the lawyers would get the money, and the judges would get to retire from actual work.

Lord Chancellor (1725-33) King, head of the brazenly corrupt Chancery Court, dutifully took the adversary system to its logical conclusion: he slept on the bench and left the verdict to the barristers, Charles Talbot and that monster of avarice, Sir Philip Yorke. They probably sold it to the higher bidder, and shared the extortion with Lord King.

A Dizzo judge, Ian Dodd, is one being criticised for occasionally dropping off. Such lapses cannot be condoned; for the look of it, judges should at least appear to be taking an interest, particularly if members of the great unwashed are in court.

It should be recalled, however, that as a humble 25-year-old solicitor, Judge Dodd achieved more for the public weal in two minutes than most barristers achieve in a lifetime on the drone.

imageIn some vague way, Judge Dodd can be seen as a remote cause of the NSW prison system being dragged out of the 18th century, and of the exposure of Albert Jaime Grassby (right) as a squalid tool of Bob Trimbole and the Griffith “Ndrangheta”.

NSW warders had a tradition, known to the authorities, of routinely flogging inmates. As a result, three crimes occurred on and after Sunday, February 3, 1974: the flogged burned down part of Bathurst prison; they were feloniously flogged for their trouble; and John Clarkson Maddison, the Prisons, Police and Justice Minister, committed the crime of covering up the second crime.

Maddison, a lawyer, lied to Parliament and obliged the corrupt Police Commissioner, Fred Hanson – and hence elements of the force – to participate in the third crime. Maddison’s name naturally adorns a Sydney court building.

When inmates only were charged, it thus became the justice game – to use the oxymoron noted by Mr Kathy Lette QC – for lawyers for the accused to get Dr Ken Dousts evidence of the flogging in, and for the prosecutor, Sergeant Jack Nesbitt, to keep it out. The magistrate, Harry Berman, generally agreed with Jack’s fusillade of objections.

imageAfter three barristers had a whack, Dodd (pictured) cunningly lulled Jack into torpor with innocuous questions to Dr Doust about wind, smoke and loud-hailers, and then, without objection, elicited all his evidence showing that warders had criminally assaulted persons in the care of the state. That evidence took a single page (2168) of the transcript.

In the chain reaction that followed, Maddison lost the Prisons portfolio, and that good man, Justice John Nagle, brilliantly demonstrated the profound superiority of the inquisitorial system over the adversary system.

Justice Nagle found the truth about the prison system and about the feeble police investigation into the Trimbole-ordered murder of Donald Mackay. After the Mackay inquiry, he, Barry Toomey QC, and Premier Barry Unsworth torpedoed the vile Grassby.

Judge Dodd has thus done the state some service. He may now care to adopt the practice for which Willie Watson, aka Lord Thankerton (1873-1948, lord of appeal in ordinary 1929-48), holds the copyright.

Willie’s habit of knitting on the bench had two singular merits: it kept his lordship awake, and it drove the droning herpetoids out of their tiny brains.