High-profile Australian barrister 'lied to avoid speeding tickets'

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The Independent Online

Marcus Einfeld was once a darling of Australian left-wing politics a high-profile barrister and judge who campaigned for human rights and social justice. Now his career and reputation lie in tatters and he faces a possible jail sentence for perverting justice.

The cause of his spectacular downfall could hardly be more prosaic: a series of speeding fines that Mr Einfeld, 69, allegedly sought to avoid by claiming that friends were driving his car. One was said to be Theresa Brennan, an American professor killed in a hit-and-run accident in Florida a fact of which the former judge was allegedly aware.

As Mr Einfeld was committed for trial by a Sydney court this week, a picture of his complicated personal life emerged. According to the prosecution, when his silver Lexus was snapped by a speed camera in an upmarket suburb in January 1996, he had just had lunch at a beachside restaurant with a former television journalist, Vivian Schenker, with whom he had a "close relationship" for 15 years.

He then collected his long-term partner, Sylvia Eisman, Ms Eisman's daughter, her mother and his own mother from an afternoon musical at a theatre.

Also present in court were Angela Liati, a former mistress of a multimillionaire used car salesman, who is facing charges herself, and Marie Cristos, who came along to watch. Ms Cristos, a prostitute who had an affair with Mr Einfeld's former solicitor, Michael Ryan, found documents relating to the case while rifling through his waste bin.

The raven-haired Ms Cristos, who entered court and announced, "I am the prostitute in the case", has promised to wear a new outfit for each day of the hearing. Her first ensemble included a striking Diane von Furstenberg dress. Ms Liati reportedly never met Mr Einfeld but allegedly fabricated a story of spending a day with Professor Brennan in order to add weight to Mr Einfeld's defence.

Ms Schenker originally backed Mr Einfeld's claim that he was driving his elderly mother's Toyota Corolla at the time of one of his speeding offences. When she was warned she could be prosecuted for lying to police, she changed her story and agreed to give evidence for the prosecution.

It is all worlds away from Mr Einfeld's dignified image as a lawyer and former president of Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission. In that latter capacity, while chairing an inquiry 20 years ago, he famously wept as he heard evidence from an Aboriginal mother whose son was barred from using a rugby ball and given an old shoe as a substitute.

But according to the Australian media, Mr Einfeld's alleged efforts to evade the speeding fines and avoid losing his licence were not his only aberrations. It is claimed that he embellished his entry in the Australian edition of Who's Who and obtained two doctorates from dubious academic institutions in America.

He is now charged with 14 offences including perjury. Wayne Roser, for the prosecution, claimed Mr Einfeld was a habitual liar who engaged in "a systematic course of criminality" that included forging witnesses' signatures on statutory declarations. Mobile phone records allegedly show Mr Einfeld was in Sydney on a day he claimed to be out of town.

Yesterday, Ms Schenker described strolling on the beach with the former judge after their lunch. But she agreed with Mr Einfeld's barrister, Ian Barker, QC, that she had an "imperfect memory" of the day's events.