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Malcolm Knox
March 21, 2009

Once a national treasure…Marcus Einfeld was cheerful when he arrived at court, surrounded by family and friends. Photo: Jon Reid

FOR $75, Marcus Einfeld could have caught a taxi home to Woollahra from his fateful lunch at Freshwater in January 2006.

That unpaid $75 speeding fine has cost him his title as Queen’s Counsel, his Order of Australia honour, his reputation and at least two years in jail. It has cost him everything but his $200,000 annual retired judge’s pension.

But as the Supreme Court judge Bruce James stressed yesterday in sentencing Einfeld, it was never about the $75. Nor was it about the three demerit points Einfeld would have picked up for the offence in Macpherson Street, Mosman, as he drove his friend Vivian Schenker to her Cremorne Point home. The extent of Einfeld’s “deliberate premeditated perjury” and “planned criminal activity”, revealed in its totality yesterday, was all the more astounding for the triviality of the initial offence.

In a courtroom shocked into silence and tears, Justice James sentenced Einfeld, 70, to three years in full-time custody, two years of it non-parole, for perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The fall was complete for Einfeld, once a Queen’s Counsel, Federal Court judge, National Trust living treasure and president of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Operatic in scale, that fall was reflected in microcosm yesterday: between Einfeld’s robust, cheerful arrival at court and his sombre departure between two Corrective Services officers; between the ebullience of his big entourage of family and supporters at the start of the hearing, and their tearful silence when his sentence was announced; and between the eminence of his achievements and the pointless deviousness of his crimes.

Einfeld had pleaded guilty to two offences relating to his car being clocked 10 kmh over the speed limit at 4.01pm on January 8, 2006. For the first, lying under oath to the Local Court in August 2006 when he said he was not driving the car but had lent it to an American friend, Teresa Brennan, he was sentenced to one year and nine months.

On this excuse he was acquitted in August 2006 but it was later discovered that Professor Brennan had died three years earlier. This gave rise to the second offence, of wilfully trying to pervert the course of justice. It was for this that Einfeld received the heavier sentence of two years and three months. The latter crime “aggravated the seriousness” of the first, Justice James said.

In August 2006, when police investigated the Brennan revelations, Einfeld wrote a 20-page statement that would have done Colleen McCullough proud. It was an elaborate fiction about how Einfeld lent his car to a woman named Brennan whom he had met in Bangladesh. His 82-paragraph description of this Brennan’s appearance, the scenes, dialogue and narration were vivid, fluent and totally fictitious.

The intelligence and imagination Einfeld brought to that statement, his history in the law and standing in the community only made things worse for him.

A son of the former Labor minister Syd Einfeld, Einfeld was a pillar of the Jewish and eastern suburbs establishment.

But for Justice James, Einfeld’s position aggravated his crimes. “He knew the high importance of telling the truth,” Justice James said, and his crimes “strike at the heart of the administration of justice”. He had no excuses for attacking the rule of law itself.

On Einfeld’s sentencing submissions that his physical and mental health would make jail too onerous, Justice James said his various symptoms would probably worsen but not to the extent that he could avoid full-time jail.

After the sentence, Einfeld was mobbed by weeping family and friends. One by one he thanked them. They would be heading in opposite directions: his family eastwards along Syd Einfeld Drive; and he westwards, to jail. In his parting words, he murmured: “I have my bags packed”.

One Comment

  1. Einfeld in the 4 corners programme admits to lying, that’s nothing new. I have known him to be lying since 1999. I have been telling the governmet authorities as well as the maistream media for almost 10 years but it has been falling on deaf ears.I hope the Attorney general would reconsider my case judged by Einfeld.

    Frank Nejad

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