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Waterstreet says victims’ names should not be kept hidden

Charles Waterstreet, a barrister who was recently found to have sexually harassed three legal practitioners, asked a tribunal to remove a non-publication order protecting two of their names.

user iconNaomi Neilson 23 April 2024 Big Law
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In an unsuccessful application to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), Waterstreet said the non-publication orders for the two women should be lifted because the “prospect of reputational damage or embarrassment” were not sufficient grounds.

The women were both law students at the time they were sexually harassed by the barrister in his chambers.

The first, known only as C1, said she worked for Waterstreet when he watched a pornographic video near her, told her he wanted to “rub” a client’s partner “all over”, and showed her a pencil drawing of a flaccid penis he claimed was a “drawing of my beautiful penis”.

 
 

The second, C2, said Waterstreet showed her a “black vibrating sex toy” during a job interview and told her, “female orgasms were more volcanic and far more powerful than men’s”.

The council of the NSW Bar Association said that while both women made public comments in 2017 and 2018 about the misconduct, their identities should be kept confidential to “ameliorate any adverse impacts” on their mental health and legal careers.

In an affidavit, C1 said she acknowledged it was her decision to approach media but it was a “very difficult experience in my life”.

She added she made the complaint because she thought it was important to “contribute to the effective regulatory oversight of the legal profession and that the only way standards would change in the profession was if people like me stood up and raised complaints”.

The NSW Bar said C1 participated in the complaint because of the non-publication order and she hoped it would become permanent.

NCAT accepted that if her name was made public, C1 would be likely to receive “unwanted attention and approaches to discuss the events the subject of her complaint”.

“We accept that this would be distressing for her and would have an adverse impact on her mental health,” the tribunal concluded.

C2 told the tribunal she did not want the proceedings to be “one of the first things my colleagues and clients associated with me”.

She added she was concerned about inciting “online trolls”, who could have a “detrimental effect on my mental health and my career”.

Similarly to C1, the tribunal accepted C2’s “genuine fear” about what may happen if the non-publication order was lifted.

“This fear may be less acute now than it was in 2022 when she was starting in a new position, but it is nonetheless relevant,” NCAT said.

Waterstreet also requested that the protection of witnesses be amended so he could speak to mental health practitioners, but the tribunal said no evidence was advanced in support of this submission.

While the council did not object to this submission, the tribunal said it would not grant it because Waterstreet “sees many medical practitioners who would be exempted from the non-publication order, and no reason has been established to permit he names to be disseminated in this way”.

A permanent non-publication order has been made.