The unanimous High Court decision to acquit Cardinal George Pell is a major win for Bret Walker SC, cementing his place as one of Australia top lawyers.
In releasing Cardinal Pell from prison, the Court said there was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”.
Pell, 78-year-old was sentenced to a six-year prison sentence for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick’s cathedral when he was the archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.
Bret Walker lead the Pell legal team and had claimed the appellant division of the supreme court was wrong when it dismissed Pell’s first appeal in August by a majority of two judges to one.
As The Guardian noted in a report on the appeal, Walker was able to pick the prosecution apart with the surgical skill he’s known for.
Unlike many of his defenders in the church who rushed to publication the moment his fate became public, Bret Walker SC did not argue that the jury’s verdict was impossible. Nearly but not quite.
As The Guardian noted, the English language was ransacked by Walker to try to capture the difference: barely possible, extremely improbable, inherently improbable, so unlikely as to make it barely possible, not realistically possible etc.
Ultimately, again, Bret Walker prevailed.
The $25,000-a-day Silk
Sydney-based Bret Walker is reputed to charge up to $25,000 a day and has a client list that encompasses everyone from celebrities, rich listers and mobsters to – now – Cardinals.
He was admitted to the New South Wales bar in 1979 and was appointed senior counsel in 1993. He was president of the New South Wales Bar Association from November 2001 to November 2003, having been vice-president from 1996 to 2001. He was president of the Law Council of Australia from 1997 to 1998.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce hired Walker, regarded as a High Court specialist, to keep him in parliament after he fell foul of the dual citizenship laws after Joyce got into legal trouble over being a New Zealand citizen. Former PM Kevin Rudd used him for representation at the royal commission into insulation.
Taught English at Sydney’s King’s School by radio shock-jock Alan Jones, (pictured right) he also acted for the Finks Outlaw motorcycle club to contest anti bikie laws and to stop also to prevent a bikie gang member being deported.
He also represented Gina Rinehart’s children in a hotly contested courtroom battle.
His ability to deliver succinct submissions and his legal smarts place him the very top league of Australian barristers, although some have questioned whether he is truly worth the disparity between the $5,000-$10,000 a day payment other eminent barristers charge.
His latest in, however, will doubtless seal that argument so far as future clients are concerned.
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