Robertson is a founder and joint head of Doughty Street Chambers. He serves as a Master of the Bench at the Middle Temple, a recorder, and visiting professor at Queen Mary University of London.
At the 2009 Ideas Festival in Brisbane, Australia
Geoff Ronald Robertson
30 September 1946
|Residence||Camden, London, United Kingdom|
|Occupation||Lawyer, author, broadcaster, academic|
|Employer||Doughty Street Chambers|
|Spouse(s)||Kathy Lette (separated)|
Robertson was born in Sydney, Australia, and grew up in the suburb of Eastwood, attending Epping Boys' High School. He then attended the University of Sydney where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1966 and a Bachelor of Laws with First-Class Honours in 1970, before winning a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Law from University College, Oxford in 1972. In 2006 he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Sydney.
In 1990, Robertson married the author Kathy Lette, and they lived together in London with their children until their separation in 2017. They had met in 1988 during the filming of an episode of Hypothetical for ABC Television; Robertson was dating Nigella Lawson at the time and Lette was married to Kim Williams. In his 2010 Who's Who entry, he lists his hobbies as tennis, opera and fishing.
Robertson became a barrister in 1973, and was appointed QC in 1988. He became well known after acting as defence counsel in the celebrated English criminal trials of OZ, Gay News, the ABC Trial, The Romans in Britain (the prosecution brought by Mary Whitehouse), Randle & Pottle, the Brighton bombing and Matrix Churchill. He also defended the artist J. S. G. Boggs from a private prosecution brought by the Bank of England regarding his depictions of British currency.
In 1989 and 1990 he led the defence team for Rick Gibson, a Canadian artist, and Peter Sylveire, a director of an art gallery, who were charged with outraging public decency for exhibiting earrings made from human foetuses.
In 1972 he advised Peter Hain as a McKenzie friend when Hain defended himself on several charges including conspiracy to trespass arising from his involvement in anti-apartheid protests, as a protest against the apartheid regime. During the ten-day trial at the Old Bailey Hain dismissed his QCs, but retained Robertson and another as advisers, before being convicted and fined £200. Robertson was also employed to defend John Stonehouse after his unsuccessful attempt at faking his own death in 1974.
In March 2000 in the Independent Schools Tribunal, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice, he successfully defended A. S. Neill's Summerhill School, a private free school. The proceedings were brought by OFSTED on behalf of David Blunkett, the Education Minister, who was seeking the closure of the school. The case was later dramatised by Tiger Aspect Productions in a TV series entitled Summerhill and broadcast on BBC Four and CBBC.
In August 2000, Robertson was retained by the heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson for a hearing before the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC). The disciplinary hearing related to two counts relating to Tyson's behaviour after his 38-second victory over Lou Savarese in Glasgow in June that year. Tyson escaped a ban from fighting in Britain. Robertson successfully deployed a defence of freedom of expression for Tyson, the first use before the BBBofC, but Tyson was convicted on the other count and fined.
In 2002 he defended Dow Jones in Dow Jones & Co Inc v Gutnick, a case where Joseph Gutnick, an Australian mining magnate, sued Dow Jones after an article critical of him was published on the website of the Barron's newspaper. Gutnick successfully applied to the High Court of Australia, requesting for the case to be heard in Australia rather than the United States, where the First Amendment protects free speech. Robertson then appealed the case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The case was described as a "very worrying decision" as it potentially opened the door for libel cases related to internet publishing to be heard in any country and in multiple countries for the same article.
In December 2002 Robertson was retained by The Washington Post to represent its veteran war correspondent, Jonathan Randal, in The Hague at the United Nations Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He established the principle of qualified privilege for the protection of journalists in war crimes courts.
In 2006 Geoffrey Robertson successfully defended The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in Jameel v Wall Street Journal Europe. The case centred on an article published in the WSJ in 2002, which alleged that the United States were monitoring the bank accounts of a Saudi Arabian businessman to ensure he was not funding terrorists. Jameel, who was represented by Carter-Ruck, was originally awarded £40,000 in damages but this was overturned in favour of the WSJ. The case was viewed by The Lawyer as a landmark case which redefined the earlier case of Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd, upholding the right to publish if it is deemed to be in the public interest.
In early 2007, instructed by the aboriginal lawyer Michael Mansell, Robertson took proceedings for the Aboriginal Tasmanians to recover 15 sets of their stolen ancestral remains, then being held in the basement of the Natural History Museum in London. He accused the museum of wishing to retain them for "genetic prospecting".
Amongst these, Robertson was involved in the defence of Michael X in Trinidad and has appeared for the defence in a libel case against the former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. He was also involved in the controversial inquest of Helen Smith and also in the Blom-Cooper Commission inquiry into the smuggling of guns from Israel through Antigua to Colombia.
On 28 January 2015 he represented Armenia with barrister Amal Clooney at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the Perinçek v. Switzerland case. He called Doğu Perinçek a "vexatious litigant pest" at the ECHR hearing.
From 2016, Robertson has been representing former Brazilian president Lula da Silva with appeals to the United Nations Human Rights Committee regarding Lula's treatment by the Brazilian justice system. 
Since 1981, often with long intervals in between, Robertson has hosted an Australian television series of programmes called Geoffrey Robertson's Hypotheticals. These shows invite notable people, often including former and current political leaders, to discuss contemporary issues by assuming imagined identities in hypothetical situations.
His 2005 book The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man Who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold details the story of John Cooke, who prosecuted King Charles I of England in the treason trial that led to his execution. After the Restoration, Cooke was convicted of high treason and hanged, drawn and quartered.
In his 2006 revision of Crimes Against Humanity, Robertson deals in detail with human rights, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The book starts with the history of human rights and has several case studies such as the case of General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, the Balkans Wars, and the 2003 Iraq War. His views on the United States' atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan can be considered controversial. He considers the Hiroshima bomb was certainly justified, and that the second bomb on Nagasaki was most probably justified but that it might have been better if it was dropped outside a city. His argument is that the bombs, while killing more than 100,000 civilians, were justified because they pushed Emperor Hirohito of Japan to surrender, thus saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of allied forces, as well as Japanese soldiers and civilians.
In his 2010 book, The Case of the Pope, Robertson claims that Pope Benedict XVI is guilty of protecting paedophiles because the church swore the victims to secrecy and moved perpetrators in Catholic sex abuse cases to other positions where they had access to children while knowing the perpetrators were likely to reoffend. This, Robertson believes, constitutes the crime of assisting underage sex and when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, the retired pope approved this policy up to November 2002. In Robertson's opinion, the Vatican is not a sovereign state and the pope is not immune to prosecution. Since Benedict XVI retired, Robertson stated in July 2013: "The committee's enquiries will inevitably lead it to conclude that the Vatican has broken multiple articles of the convention on a huge scale in many countries. The result in human suffering is incalculable. Francis's papacy could well be defined by the world's verdict on his response – more handwringing apologies or calls for a line to be drawn under the past will no longer wash. He will fail unless he initiates bold tangible actions, for example lifting the veil of secrecy that has protected so many clerical rapists, engaging secular authorities and offering rather than resisting appropriate compensation."
In An Inconvenient Genocide: Who Now Remembers the Armenians? (2014) Robertson presents an argument based on fact, evidence and his knowledge of international law, claiming that the horrific events that occurred in 1915 do indeed constitute genocide.
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The eighth annual awards were held at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) on 24 June 1999. The awards were hosted by Moira Stuart.The overall winner was BBC TV Panorama’s "When Good Men Do Nothing", which covered the historical failures which had led to the situation in Rwanda and genocide.
David Bull, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Those working to defend human rights depend on the work of journalists whose dedication and determination help to expose injustice, torture and political killings. In a year that has seen continuing gross human rights violations around the world, including the unfolding tragedy of Kosovo, the role of the media in reporting these abuses of basic human rights has never been more vital.”The special award for human rights journalism under threat was awarded to Najam Sethi for his work as editor of the Pakistani national newspaper The Friday Times. He was unable to attend the awards as he had been arrested in Pakistan.
The awards also highlighted the work of Mark Thomas, which was not entered into the competition. Thomas used his series The Mark Thomas Comedy Product to attend Defendory, a trade show for the arms industry. He claimed to be offering PR training to governments and military regimes on how to present a better public image on human rights abuse. His services were sought by the governments of Kenya and Indonesia. Whilst offering these spoof services, Thomas and his assistants filmed Indonesian government officials admitting that the armed forces used torture. The reactions of government departments and arms manufacturers also featured.
Pierre Sané, AI’s secretary general, addressed advances in human rights with the establishment of an International Criminal Court to try those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in the arrest of General Pinochet. He also pointed to ongoing issues when he said, "But the reports from Kosovo, from the death cells of the USA, and from Sierra Leone also remind us that it has been an appalling year."The judges for all categories were Andy Blackmore, Romesh Gunesekera, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Mark Lattimer, Jenni Murray, Geoffrey Robertson QC and Mary Ann Sieghart.Andrew Nicol (judge)
Sir Andrew George Lindsay Nicol (born 9 May 1951), styled The Hon. Mr Justice Nicol, is a judge of the High Court of England and Wales.
He was educated at City of London Freemen's School, Selwyn College, Cambridge and Harvard Law School (LLM).He was called to the bar at Middle Temple in 1978 and became a bencher there in 2004. He was made a QC in 1995, deputy judge of the High Court from 2003 to 2009, and judge of the High Court of Justice (Queen's Bench Division) since 2009.
He co-wrote Media Law with Geoffrey Robertson.Biteback Publishing
Biteback Publishing is a British publisher concentrating mainly on political titles. It was incorporated, as a private limited company with share capital, in 2009. It is jointly owned by its managing director Iain Dale and by Michael Ashcroft's Political Holdings Ltd, and has published several of Ashcroft's books including Call Me Dave, his controversial 2015 biography of David Cameron.Other titles include The Left's Jewish Problem (2016) and Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World (2017) by investigative journalist James Ball.Biteback's author roster includes Andrew Adonis, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Roger Bannister, John Bercow, Conrad Black, Gyles Brandreth, Elkie Brooks, Liam Byrne, Alastair Campbell, Chapman Pincher, Ann Clwyd, Michael Crick, Barry Cryer, Edwina Currie, David Davis, Angela Eagle, Nigel Farage, Norman Fowler, Paul Gambaccini, Charlotte Green, Peter Hain, Vince Hilaire, Ken Hom, Barbara Hosking, Lee Howey, John Hutton, Antony Jay, Stanley Johnson, Nigel Lawson, Oliver Letwin, Maureen Lipman, Caroline Lucas, Jonathan Lynn, Denis MacShane, Brian Mawhinney, Damian McBride, Michael Meacher, Austin Mitchell, Ron Moody, Bel Mooney, Jim Murphy, Airey Neave, Michael Nicholson, Jessye Norman, Isabel Oakeshott, David Owen, Matthew Parris, Priti Patel, Harvey Proctor, Vicky Pryce, Mike Read, Malcolm Rifkind, Geoffrey Robertson, Nick Ross, Andrew Sachs, Bernie Sanders, Gillian Shephard, Jacqui Smith, Michael Spicer, Sean Spicer, Elizabeth Truss, David Waddington, Nigel West and Michael Winner.
Around 20% of its sales are ebooks.Doughty Street Chambers
Doughty Street Chambers is a British set of barristers' chambers situated in Bristol, Manchester and London's Doughty Street, undertaking criminal justice, public law, immigration, employment, human rights and civil liberties work.Doughty Street Chambers was set up in 1990 by thirty barristers, aiming to break the mould of traditional chambers by moving out of the Inns of Court. The chambers are now over four times the size with over 120 members, including 29 Queen's Counsels. Geoffrey Robertson is the founder and joint head of Doughty Street Chambers along with Edward Fitzgerald. Other notable members include Amal Clooney, Louis Blom-Cooper, Geraldine Van Bueren, Sadakat Kadri, Helena Kennedy, Ben Silverstone and Keir Starmer and Shahram Taghavi. Martha Spurrier, now director of the human rights organisation Liberty, remains an associate tenant.Edward Fitzgerald (barrister)
Edward Hamilton Fitzgerald CBE QC is an English barrister who specialises in criminal law, public law, and international human rights law. His work against the death penalty has led him to represent despised criminals such as: Myra Hindley, a perpetrator in the Moors murders; Mary Bell, a child killer; Maxine Carr; Jon Venables, one of James Bulger's killers; various IRA prisoners; and Abu Hamza, the controversial Muslim cleric. Fitzgerald is currently the joint head of Doughty Street Chambers along with Geoffrey Robertson QC. Fitzgerald has been called to the Bar in a number of jurisdictions including Belize, Grenada and St Vincent, and has been granted rights of audience to appear in cases in Hong Kong, Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, Bahamas, and the British Virgin Islands. He is also a trustee and patron of a number of charities including The Death Penalty Project and The Longford Trust.Francis Bennion
Francis Alan Roscoe Bennion (2 January 1923 – 28 January 2015) was a barrister in the United Kingdom. He was the author of several leading UK legal texts, including in particular Bennion on Statutory Interpretation (first edition in 1984; 5th edition in 2008).
Bennion was born at Wallasey in Cheshire, the only son of Thomas Roscoe Bennion and his wife Ellen Norah Bennion. He was educated at The John Lyon School in Harrow, London from 1934 to 1939, and attended one year St Andrews University in 1941 before joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He served in the Second World War as a Coastal Command pilot in No. 221 Squadron RAF from 1941 to 1946.
After his war service, he returned to study law at Balliol College, Oxford in 1946. He was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in January 1951, and practised as a barrister in England from 1951 to 1965, including eight years as Parliamentary Counsel from 1953 to 1965, when he drafted constitutions for Pakistan and for Ghana following independence from the UK.
He left his practise at the bar from 1965 to 1973, spending three years as the Chief Executive of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; then, after being a co-founder of the Professional Association of Teachers in 1968, he was its first chairman from 1968 to 1972.
In 1972, Bennion brought a private prosecution against the young Peter Hain for criminal conspiracy, in relation to Hain's activities as chairman of the Stop the Seventy Tour Campaign which took direct action to disrupt sporting events involving participants from South Africa in 1969 and 1970, as a protest against the apartheid regime. During the ten-day trial at the Old Bailey Hain dismissed his defence team, which included barrister Geoffrey Robertson, before being convicted and fined £200.
Bennion returned to legal practice as a barrister in 1973. He was Parliamentary Counsel again from 1973 to 1975, drafting various Acts of Parliament, including the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. He continued to practise at the bar until 1994.
He became a lecturer in law at the University of Oxford in 1984, remaining there until his retirement in 2002.Geoff Crawford
Geoffrey Robertson Crawford, DCM (16 December 1916 – 29 December 1998) was an Australian politician. He was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the Country Party from 1950 to 1976, and served as Minister for Agriculture from 1968 until 1975.
Crawford was born in Inverell, New South Wales and educated at a state high school. He initially worked as a farm hand and share farmer before buying his own farm in the Inverell district. He served in the Second Australian Imperial Force in North Africa and New Guinea and received the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1944. Crawford was elected to the New South Wales Parliament as the Country Party member for Barwon at the 1950 state election. He defeated the sitting member Roy Heferen who had been disendorsed by the Labor Party after breaking caucus solidarity during an indirect election of the New South Wales Legislative Council. Crawford held the seat for the next 8 elections. He retired at the 1976 state election. During the premierships of Robert Askin and Tom Lewis he was Minister for Agriculture. He also held various parliamentary positions including Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker.Henry Parker (writer)
Henry Parker (1604–1652) was an English barrister and political writer in the Parliamentarian cause.
He was a major figure as a propagandist and pamphleteer, "the most influential writer to defend the parliamentary cause in the 1640s". He provided the "ideological ballast for resistance", according to Geoffrey Robertson. He operated on behalf of the "coalition" of aristocrats and gentry who took over in the Long Parliament. He formulated a theory of sovereignty for the side of Parliament in its conflict with Charles I of England, based on the consent of the people.High Sheriff of Clwyd
The office of High Sheriff of Clwyd was established in 1974 as part of the creation of the county of Clwyd in Wales following the Local Government Act 1972, and effectively replaced the shrievalties of the amalgamated counties of Flintshire and Denbighshire.Incitement to Disaffection Act 1934
The Incitement to Disaffection Act 1934 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made it an offence to endeavour to seduce a member of HM Forces from his "duty or allegiance to His Majesty", thus expanding the ambit of the law.
The previous relevant legislation was the Incitement to Mutiny Act 1797, which created the offence of endeavouring to seduce a member of HM Forces from his duty and allegiance. The 1797 Act, last significantly used against Tom Mann, 1912, and in the Campbell cases, 1924 and 1925, was not repealed by the 1934 Act, but effectively became defunct.
According to Geoffrey Robertson, a human rights lawyer, the most powerful incitement to disaffection was made in the 1987 election campaign by the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who declared that armed forces chiefs should consider resigning in protest if the Labour Party were elected and sought to implement its non-nuclear policy.John Bradshaw (judge)
John Bradshaw (1602 – 31 October 1659) was an English judge. He is most notable for his role as President of the High Court of Justice for the trial of King Charles I and as the first Lord President of the Council of State of the English Commonwealth.Kathy Lette
Kathryn Marie Lette (born 11 November 1958), better known as Kathy Lette, is an Australian-British author who has written a number of bestselling books. She resides in the London Borough of Camden.Libel tourism
Libel tourism is a term, first coined by Geoffrey Robertson, to describe forum shopping for libel suits. It particularly refers to the practice of pursuing a case in England and Wales, in preference to other jurisdictions, such as the United States, which provide more extensive defenses for those accused of making derogatory statements.A critic of English defamation law, journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft, attributes the practice to the introduction of no win no fee agreements, the presumption that derogatory statements are false, the difficulty of establishing fair comment and "the caprice of juries and the malice of judges." Wheatcroft contrasts this with United States law since the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case. "Any American public figure bringing an action now has to prove that what was written was not only untrue but published maliciously and recklessly."Two other critics of English defamation law, the US lawyers Samuel A. Abady and Harvey Silverglate, have cited the example of Irish–Saudi businessman Khalid bin Mahfouz, who by the time of his death in 2009, had threatened suit more than 40 times in England against those who accused him of funding terrorism. Mahfouz also took legal action in Belgium, France and Switzerland against those repeating the accusations. George W. Bush advisor Richard Perle threatened to sue investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in London, because of a series of critical articles Hersh had written about him. In 2006 American actress Kate Hudson won a libel action in England against the British edition of the National Enquirer magazine after it published an article suggesting she had an eating disorder.A series of cases involving US citizens being sued in English courts led to new laws in both countries. In the United States, the SPEECH Act unanimously passed the US Congress, which makes foreign defamation judgements unenforceable in US courts if they don't meet US free speech standards. In England and Wales, the Defamation Act 2013 requires plaintiffs to show that England is the proper jurisdiction to hear a case when the defendant does not live in England or Wales.Outraging public decency
Outraging public decency is a common law offence in England and Wales and Hong Kong. It is punishable by unlimited imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.Perinçek v. Switzerland
Perinçek v. Switzerland is a 2013 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights concerning public statements by Doğu Perinçek, a political activist, lawyer and former Chairman of the Workers' Party, who was convicted by a Swiss court for publicly denying the historical fact of the Armenian genocide.A preliminary hearing on the appeal by Switzerland was held on 28 January 2015. The Grand Chamber ruled in favour of Perinçek on 15 October 2015, who has argued his right to freedom of expression.Schoolkids Oz
Schoolkids Oz was No. 28 of Oz magazine. The issue was, on a special occasion, edited by 5th and 6th-form children. It was the subject of a high-profile obscenity case in the United Kingdom from June 1971 to 5 August 1971, the longest trial under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act.The Case of the Pope
The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuses is a 2010 book by Geoffrey Robertson QC, detailing failings in the Vatican's handling of cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.The Trials of Oz
The Trials of Oz is 1991 video-taped BBC television drama shown in the UK on 9 November 1991 as part of BBC 2's Performance anthology series of single plays.
The drama concerns the six-week trial in June and July 1971 of the joint editors of the British underground magazine Oz in which the three men were prosecuted on three charges, including obscenity, for the 28th issue known as Schoolkids Oz. It is based on the transcripts of the court case which were adapted by Geoffrey Robertson, who was junior defence counsel at the trial. The re-enactment features Hugh Grant as Richard Neville, Peter O'Brien as Jim Anderson, Kevin Allen as Felix Dennis, the three charged men. The production also featured Leslie Phillips as Judge Michael Argyle, Nigel Hawthorne as Brian Leary, Simon Callow as John Mortimer, Alfred Molina as George Melly, Lee Cornes as Marty Feldman, and Nigel Planer as John Peel.
The three accused were convicted of obscenity and given sentences ranging from nine to fifteen months, but released on appeal at which the trial judge was severely reprimanded for misdirecting the jury.
The play was nominated for a BAFTA Award as Best Single Drama.