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  • Patrick-Guest or Intruder? ( Part 3/3 )
  • By Kate Legge
  • The Weekend Australian Magazine
    Page 3 of 3
  • 07/12/2002
  • Contributed by: admin ( 30 articles in 2002 )
Continued from Page 2

Udorovic says he wanted to demonstrate that he was not just a lawyer who had worked a case. "I felt hurt by what happened. It stays with me. I've no doubt it stays with Paul. It stays with all of us, and for the rest of my years on the planet I'll never forget it."

His colleagues who joined him at the bar table during the nine days of hearings share similar feelings. They got together recently to discuss the emotional fallout, but Guest did not show up. His is a solitary journey.

"I don't think you can ever get over it," Udorovic says. "You just learn as a lawyer to work within the framework of the experiences that have occurred for you and the same will happen to any judge, most of all someone like Paul, who cares, who's a father, a parent. It takes very strong personalities to work in family law, especially in child-related matters, and Paul's a very strong personality. You've got to feel passionately about what you believe and he knows that what he did was right, and I believe he would do the same thing again."

Guest is a strong man, physically and emotionally, but Patrick will be with him always. After the boy's death, the judge approached court administrators to see whether they would allow publication of Patrick's real name so that the judgment could stand as a memorial to him, but the Family Law Act prohibits it. When he thinks of what came to pass and the face that danced before the court, he reminds himself "that the boy had the pleasure of laughing in his father's arms".

In the months after Patrick's death, Guest threw himself into training for the World Masters Games, held in October. When he talked about rowing, he seemed to lift and brighten. He told me that his Olympic achievements had taught him how to scale adversity. Three weeks before the Games, he was involved in a serious rowing accident on the Yarra which fractured his vertebrae and left him with a deep-seated muscle injury. He spent 11 days in hospital, but got back in the boat with his crew to win three gold medals.

He showed similar steel returning to the bench. In November, Guest jailed a father who refused to reveal the whereabouts of his 13-year-old son. The boy's psychologist has warned that the teenager is suicidal.

Guest takes refuge in something Edward de Bono advanced about creating a new memory surface for each problem that comes before him. "Every case has a new database," Guest says. "Like fingerprints, no two marriages or relationships are the same. Relationships are secrets shared only by the principals, and that is what they bring to court."

Among the letters of condolence and support he received was one from a former director of counselling at the Family Court who offered this advice:
" . I have been comforted in the past, at least a little, by the realisation that it was not I who created these problems or seemingly impossible dilemmas. I simply did my best to respond to them."

"That is what judges of this court contend with every day, dealing with the evidence and trying to plan a future around those past events," Guest says. "You must understand, however, that you can't be all things to all people. You can only resolve the dispute. You are not responsible for what may happen into the future, for these are often acts ordained by the distant past."

That is the mantra Guest recites to ease the burden of the death of Patrick. "If I let it overwhelm me," he says, "I don't think I could approach a case again in a manner which requires me to make a decision."


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