Australian Capital Territory police have received no complaints or allegations against Dyson Heydon since a high court inquiry found he had harassed associates while a judge.
The ACT’s director of public prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, referred the Heydon allegations to ACT policing for investigation more than a month ago, following a week of revelations about the former high court justice.
Heydon was found to have harassed six court associates by an independent inquiry led by the former inspector general of intelligence and security, Dr Vivienne Thom.
He was also the subject of a Sydney Morning Herald investigation, which alleged, among other things, that Heydon indecently assaulted the then president of the ACT Law Society, Noor Blumer, at a University of Canberra law ball in 2013.
Drumgold alerted police to both Thom’s findings and the media allegations – which are strenuously denied by Heydon – and recommended an investigation be conducted.
But police told the Guardian on Friday that, since that referral, it had received no complaints.
“ACT policing encourages members of the public to report any form of assault committed against them,” a spokeswoman said.
“All such reports will be appropriately reviewed and investigated. ACT policing has not received a complaint or allegation from any victim in this matter.”
Speaking shortly after the referral, the territory’s police chief, Neil Gaughan, said the matter was being treated seriously and that police had begun inquiries. He urged any women subject to assault or sexual assault to come forward.
“We’ve spoken to the [registrar] of the high court, we’ve got some inquiries under way,” he said. “I do encourage, however, anyone out there who has been subjected to assault or sexual assault to please get in contact with ACT policing.”
Heydon has flatly denied any sexual harassment or offence. In a statement last month issued through his lawyers, Speed and Stracey, he said: “Any allegation of predatory behaviour or breaches of the law is categorically denied.”
The referral to police by Drumgold was not unique to the Heydon allegations. It is standard practice for the DPP to refer matters that may warrant investigation to police.
Research has consistently shown that significant barriers exist in the reporting of sexual offences to police.
A 2010 report by the Australian Law Reform Commission said the majority of sexual assaults never come before the criminal justice system. It found the reluctance of victims to report can relate to fear of the perpetrator, a lack of confidence in the justice system, previous experiences with reporting and “notions of privacy, shame, trauma and stigma”.
An ABC investigation has previously found that of the 140,000 sexual assaults reported to Australian police in the 10 years to 2017, almost 12,000 were rejected on the basis that police did not believe a sexual assault occurred. A further 34,000 were “cleared” or resolved without charge or other legal action.
Last month, three of Heydon’s former associates said, through their lawyer Josh Bornstein, that they would seek compensation.
That compensation is sought from Heydon himself and from the commonwealth.
The Heydon allegations have been described as a “singular event” for the profession, which has been the subject of successive reports of harassment.
Last year, a global survey by the International Bar Association found one in three female respondents had been sexually harassed in their workplace.
The year prior, a survey by the Women Lawyers Association ACT found 57% of respondents had been subjected to sexual harassment at work.
In 2014, the Law Society’s national attrition and re-engagement study found one in four had experienced sexual harassment in their workplace.