Alison Courtice’s tweet prompted many comments from female lawyers who had experienced similar sexual harassment, or worse. (Image/Josh Woning)
Alison Courtice’s tweet prompted many comments from female lawyers who had experienced similar sexual harassment, or worse. (Image/Josh Woning)

Barrister who asked me for sex now a ‘slimy toad’ judge

A BRISBANE lawyer has spoken out about being sexually harassed by a male barrister, who is now a Queensland judge.

Alison Courtice said while she was a young lawyer in her 20s, the barrister propositioned her for sex over a one-hour lunch to celebrate settling a trial.

Ms Courtice claims the older married barrister talked about sex and "the quality of his semen" during lunch at a top Brisbane city restaurant, in the late 1990s.

"He started to become really creepy and sleazy as the lunch went on," Ms Courtice, 52, said.

"He said he wanted me to go somewhere with him after lunch, instead of going back to the office.

"I was just shocked and I got out of there. I was trying to pretend that I didn't understand that he wanted to have sex with me. It was pretty obvious.

"He was saying 'There are lots of places we could go'."

Ms Courtice said she told the barrister she had an appointment back at work and left.

"I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. I felt sick. I was in shock," she said.

She will not name the barrister, who is now a sitting Queensland judge, but said: "I just think judges should not be slimy, creepy toads."

When Ms Courtice heard of six women's allegations of sexual harassment by former High Court judge Dyson Heydon, which he denies, she posted about her own experience on Twitter.

Alison Courtice’s tweet prompted many comments from female lawyers who had experienced similar sexual harassment, or worse. (Image/Josh Woning)
Alison Courtice’s tweet prompted many comments from female lawyers who had experienced similar sexual harassment, or worse. (Image/Josh Woning)

"As a young Brisbane lawyer I was sexually harassed by a barrister that I was instructing in a trial. He is now a Queensland judge," she wrote.

Ms Courtice was working for top Queensland law firm McCullough Robertson, and had been sent to instruct the barrister in a civil trial.

She said she returned to work in tears and immediately told her boss what had happened during the lunch.

"He was horrified," she said.

"I said 'You've got to make sure this firm never sends another female to brief him. They are not safe'."

Ms Courtice said she then told her friend, Carolyn Bartlett, a secretary at the law firm, what had happened.

Ms Bartlett yesterday confirmed the conversation and said Ms Courtice, who had been a respected solicitor "with a strong moral fibre", had been obviously upset.

Ms Courtice said she later saw the barrister at court and legal functions, but never spoke to him again.

Her tweet prompted many comments from female lawyers who had experienced similar sexual harassment, or worse.

One said as a junior prosecutor she was sexually harassed by a senior barrister, who told her he could "make or break careers".

"The harasser is now a judge here," she wrote.

Ms Courtice, who no longer works in law but is spokeswoman for Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools, said she was pleased other women had the courage to speak up.

Women Lawyers Association of Queensland president Jamie Shine said sexual harassment was still a problem for female lawyers.

"There has been improvement over the years because of people speaking out on the issues," Ms Shine said.

She said in the past women had put up with sexual harassment, but that was definitely not the message being taught to women coming through law these days.

"There are definitely still pockets of bad behaviour within the industry but there are also some amazing men and women out there, standing up and calling out incorrect behaviour," she said.

 

Originally published as Barrister who asked me for sex now a 'slimy toad' judge