Robert Richter QC is an Australian barrister, based in Melbourne, who has handled of a number of high-profile cases including defendants unpopular in public opinion. He is an Adjunct Professor at Victoria University. He is a critic of human rights violations and advocates for the rule of law.
Richter was born in Kyrgyzstan c 1946, and his family arrived in Australia in 1959. He was admitted to the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws in the late 1960s. He was called to the bar on 5 August 1971.
Richter was born c 1946 in the then Kirghiz Republic, a federal state of the former Soviet Union. His father, Berek, was a Polish Jew, and his mother, Sofia, was Ukrainian; they had met there after being displaced during World War II. After living for ten years in Israel, Richter's family moved to Melbourne, Australia, following an uncle who had already established business in the Rag Trade. Along with the rest of his family, the 13-year-old Richter arrived in Australia with little or no English. It has been reported that he taught himself English with the aid of television programs and dictionaries.
Richter's son Louis is a rock musician who has been a member of Australian indie pop bands Mid-State Orange and The Lucksmiths.
Richter has been described as a "progressive atheist".
Richter was admitted to the degrees of the Bachelor of Arts, and the Bachelor of Laws with honours from the University of Melbourne. Richter was Editor of the Melbourne University Law Review.
Membership of statutory bodies and professional organisations
Richter was a committee member of the then "Criminal Bar Association of Victoria", and the Victorian Bar Council from 1997 to 1999. Richter was President of the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties from 1994 to 1996. In addition to his business as a barrister, Richter was also a part-time Commissioner of the Law Reform Commission of Victoria from 1989 to 1992. He was appointed a silk on 26 November 1985.
In 1996 Richter successfully defended John Elliott against charges that he allegedly illegally moved A$ 66.5 million from Elders IXL, to "Equiticorp Tasman Ltd", a shelf company Elliot was alleged to control.
In 2002 Richter acted for Ray Williams in the HIH Insurance Royal Commission and the inter-related court cases.
In 1998 Richter led the defense for now convicted "Hoddle Street Massacre" perpetrator Julian Knight. Richter continues to represent Knight during his parole hearings on a pro-bono basis.
In 1987, Richer acted for surgeon Dr Ian McGoldrick who was indicted on 11 charges of procuring abortions contrary to the then sections 64 to 66 of the Victorian Crimes Act 1958 The case was dismissed at committal hearings, the presiding Justice following Justice Menhennitt's reasoning in 1969 matter of R v Davidson  VR 667 at 670.
In 1994, Richter successfully defended Victorian Police officer Cliff Lockwood in the Supreme Court of Victoria against charges that Lockwood allegedly murdered Walsh Street police shootings suspect Gary Abdallah in 1989.
In 2000 and 2003, Richter acted for then ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark.
In 2009, Richter successfully defended Labor Minister, Theo Theophanous over rape charges. In the same year, Richter represented a high school teacher who pleaded guilty to committing sexual acts against a teenage girl. During the sentencing appeal, Richter argued that the victim was a "drama queen". The appeal was successful, with Richter's client being freed.
In 2016, Richter represented one of the conspirators behind the 2015 Anzac Day Terror Plot, with the conspirator sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, for a crime that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Richter argued that his client's "rehabilitation is in the public interest".
In 2017, Richter was retained by Cardinal George Pell after Pell was charged by Victoria Police in relation to multiple allegations of historical child sexual abuse. Richter went on to claim that the case was "no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating". He later issued a written apology for making the statement. Bret Walker will replace Richter as Pell's lead counsel for the appeal.