James Madden, Additional reporting: Matthew Clayfield, Linda Daniele
1 November 2008
PROSECUTORS will push for former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld to be jailed after the disgraced 69-year-old pleaded guilty yesterday to making a false statement under oath and acting to pervert the course of justice.
Einfeld, who has been battling prostate cancer for several months, committed the serious crimes in August 2006 when he falsely claimed a female friend — who was dead at the time of the offence — was driving his car when he incurred a $77 speeding fine.
The charges carry maximum prison terms of 10 and 14 years respectively, and while his legal team is expected to argue that the former judge should escape a custodial sentence because of his distinguished service to the law, his humanitarian work and his ailing health, it is understood the Crown will seek to have Einfeld jailed.
“Yes, we will push for jail. He has pleaded guilty to very serious offences.
“They go right to the heart of the administration of justice — and he was a judge,” a source close to the prosecution team told The Weekend Australian.
Einfeld’s brief appearance in the NSW Supreme Court yesterday capped a remarkable fall from grace for the man who was voted to the list of National Living Treasures in 1997.
The saga that has forever soiled his reputation could have been avoided had Einfeld simply admitted that he was driving his Lexus when it was caught speeding in Mosman, on Sydney’s north shore, on January 8, 2006.
But instead of paying the $77 fine, Einfeld told lie after lie, beginning with the claim in August 2006 that his friend, American academic Teresa Brennan — who had died in 2003 in a hit-and-run accident in the US — was driving the car at the time.
When confronted outside court with the fact that Brennan had been dead for three years, Einfeld said another academic, also named Therese or Terese Brennan, had borrowed his car on the day of the offence.
He said she too had died after returning to the US.
Days later, Einfeld said he “categorically denied” any wrongdoing in relation to the speeding offence in Mosman.
“I would not even think of misleading a court,” he said.
It was also alleged that Einfeld had previously had tried to avoid traffic fines by claiming others were driving his car when it incurred speeding penalties in 1999 and 2003. Charges related to those alleged offences were dropped on technical grounds.
Einfeld made no comment as he left court yesterday.
Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, who has known Einfeld for nearly 40 years, described his friend as “a great man, a great human being and a great Australian”.
“It’s extremely sad how such a — relatively speaking — minor indiscretion that was then compounded should be destroying all the good of his legacy,” he said. “Marcus Einfeld is a wonderful person, a wonderful friend, a very good father, a person with a sense of humour and a love of life, and wherever he is, always energises people around him.”
A Labor judicial appointee, Einfeld was a Federal Court judge for 15 years, from 1986 to 2001.
He has also served as a judicial officer of the ACT Supreme Court for four years from 1997, and in the NSW Supreme Court in 2001.
The founding president of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, he was awarded the Order of Australia in 1998 for his services to international affairs and human rights. The year before, he was popularly voted to the list of National Living Treasures, administered by the National Trust.
Judge Bruce James continued Einfeld’s bail yesterday. He will be sentenced on February 25.
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