The prosecution of the Vatican’s top echelon Cardinal Pell in Melbourne has seen his lawyer, one of LawFuel’s Power Listers, Robert Richter QC, demonstrates another highlight in the legal career of the colourful lawyer.
Having formerly represented people such as John Elliott of Elders IXL and underworld boss Nick Gatto, when he had Gatto removed from jail and an accompanying murder charge after Gatto shot dead Andrew “Benji’’ Veniamin in a restaurant in 2004. He now has his most famous client, the highest ranking Catholic to face sex offences, with the eyes of the legal world upon him.
Cardinal Pell faces charges that he had assaulted children in his former home in the city of Ballarat nearly 40 years ago, where the Cardinal’s career began.
But for Robert Richter, his selection was by no means obvious. Some consider him to be too old, at 72, and perhaps too theatrical. Given to the role of the “celebrity barrister” he wears a panama hat and his owl glasses and is given to courtroom theatrics in the manner of a flamboyant courtroom lawyer of old.
But his preparation and occasionally dazzling cross examination, when he can counter answers no matter how logical or illogical they may appear, have won him his huge roster of cases, as well as his fans.
As the Sydney Morning Herald noted, “the celebrity silk’s reputation for skewering witnesses – and winning cases – has delivered him the most high-profile case in his long and storied career.” And that was the main reason Robert Richter was selected, with his opening skewering of the police case demonstrating that he had lost none of his ‘touch’.
To quote the SMH:
Richter is arguably Australia’s foremost criminal defence counsel, feted for his forensic intellect and courtroom advocacy, and for his ability to smuggle clients through the tiniest windows of plausible deniability.
Briefed by Melbourne law firm Galbally & O’Bryan, the case opened some eyes as that same firm previously represented one of Cardinal Pell’s accusers, Phil Scott. Although cleared of any such offence by an internal church inquiry, the presumption appeared to be that the firm believed Pell guilty. Not so now, it would appear.
Richter’s family history gives him a certain affinity with those facing tough choices and life-and-death issues.
Born in the former Soviet state of Kirghiz Republic of a Polish Jewish father and Ukarainian mother, he moved to Germany to live in a refugee camp before moving to Israel before moving to Melbourne when he was 13.
Eventually choosing a law degree, partly to help redress wrongs he and his family had previously suffered, he soon graduated with distinction and entered the field of civil and later criminal law, treading where many ‘silver spoon’ barristers may never have ventured.
Now, with the Cardinal Pell case, he has raised his head well above the parapet again to demonstrate his abilities both in the court – and the court of public opinion.