Magistrate Rodney Higgins and court clerk Ashleigh Petrie.
Magistrate Rodney Higgins and court clerk Ashleigh Petrie.

Fears love-struck magistrate took advice from fiancee

The judicial integrity of magistrate Rodney Higgins has been called into question amid damning allegations he took legal advice from his young fiancee.

Senior lawyers have told the Herald Sun they became increasingly concerned about appearing before Mr Higgins because of fears he was being unduly influenced by 23-year-old court clerk Ashleigh Petrie, now his fiancee, when they worked together in regional Victoria.

DO YOU KNOW MORE? CONTACT SHANNON.DEERY@NEWS.COM.AU

One senior lawyer said Ms Petrie boasted about helping Mr Higgins decide on sentences generally, saying she described the magistrate as "too soft".

Magistrate Rodney Higgins and court clerk Ashleigh Petrie.
Magistrate Rodney Higgins and court clerk Ashleigh Petrie.

 

Rodney Higgins.
Rodney Higgins.

The lawyer said the clerk attended a legal conference in Bali with Mr Higgins and bragged she encouraged her partner to come down harder on people who appeared before him.

The incident, in June, allegedly sparked an angry response from a senior criminal barrister that led to a physical altercation between the pair that was seen by some of Melbourne's top legal figures.

The Bali Conference is an annual legal event that has attracted keynote speakers including former High Court justice Michael Kirby, Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry, and prominent barristers Julian Burnside, QC, and Robert Richter, QC.

Ms Petrie posted pictures of the trip with Mr Higgins on social media.

The judicial integrity of magistrate Rodney Higgins has been called into question after claims by his fiancee and court clerk Ashleigh Petrie.
The judicial integrity of magistrate Rodney Higgins has been called into question after claims by his fiancee and court clerk Ashleigh Petrie.

 

Ms Petrie has been posting pictures of her holidays with Mr Higgins on social media.
Ms Petrie has been posting pictures of her holidays with Mr Higgins on social media.

But she went to ground on Wednesday after the Herald Sun revealed concerns among Melbourne's legal fraternity about her recent engagement to Mr Higgins, who is more than 40 years her senior.

When asked about allegations she influenced Mr Higgins she refused to comment but did not deny them.

When told the Herald Sun would be printing the allegations, Ms Petrie replied only: "Okay".

Outgoing chief magistrate Peter Lauritsen also refused to be drawn on the serious ­allegations, issuing a no comment response to questions for the second day in a row.

The claims have cast a cloud over the couple.
The claims have cast a cloud over the couple.

He also refused to comment when asked about a complaint made by a senior magistrate about Ms Petrie's conduct.

MORE NEWS

SECOND MAN CHARGED OVER FATHER'S MURDER

TRAINER SET TO QUIT AFTER CHARGES REVEALED

Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said it was a matter for the magistrates' court.

"The advice I've been provided is there haven't been any rules broken," she said.

"I'm not in the habit of commenting on people's personal lives."

But Opposition spokesman Ed O'Donohue said the matter needed to be urgently addressed. "It's disappointing that it is diverting attention from the many challenges confronting Victoria's courts and justice system," he said.

shannon.deery@news.com.au



Relive Frankie Valli's big hits when regional tour hits city

premium_icon Relive Frankie Valli's big hits when regional tour hits city

Tap your toes along to Sherry and Can't Take My Eyes Off of You

Trio rams vehicle into Orion, smashes into jewellery store

premium_icon Trio rams vehicle into Orion, smashes into jewellery store

It's one of many jewellery stores to be hit across the southeast.

Teenager's bright idea to assist sick patients

premium_icon Teenager's bright idea to assist sick patients

He will donated 20 per cent of profits to the Leukaemia Foundation.