Robert Richter, QC, is widely regarded as one of the country’s top defence lawyers (AAP)
The top Melbourne lawyer handpicked by Cardinal George Pell comes to the sexual abuse case with a formidable courtroom reputation and a history of defending some of Australia’s most unpopular people.
Robert Richter, QC, most famously convinced a jury that Mick Gatto’s 2004 shooting of hitman Andrew “Benji” Veniamin in a Melbourne restaurant was self-defence, and not murder.
So delighted was “Big Mick” with his murder acquittal he went and tattooed the name “Robert Richter” across his chest.
Several Victorian lawyers contacted by Nine.com.au proclaimed the 71-year-old Richter, also known as “The Red Baron”, as one of the most gifted defenders in Australia.
“He is the Rolls Royce of criminal defence lawyers,” George Balot, a high-profile Melbourne solicitor who has worked alongside Richter, told Nine.com.au.
Cardinal and current Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, George Pell
Richter is an avid reader who “skilfully adopts strategies from the famous book The Art of War by Sun Tzu” in his highly successful battles in court, Balot said.
Balot said Richter’s work on the Mick Gatto case was “sheer brilliance”. Richter charged Gatto almost half a million dollars in legal fees, according to media reports.
“It is extraordinary how good he is,” Balot said.
Ingrid Irwin, a Ballarat-based lawyer who represents people accusing Cardinal Pell of historic sexual abuse, told Nine.com.au Richter was “arguably the best lawyer in the country”.
Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric Pell has been forced to pay Richter’s sizeable fees from his own pocket, after the Vatican confirmed it would not cover the 76-year-old’s legal costs.
Robert Richter, QC, speaks on the phone outside the Supreme Court in Brisbane in 2009.
Top quality lawyers of Richter’s calibre do not come cheap, and his daily rate is rumoured to be a whopping $11,000.
Richter was born in former Soviet Union state Kyrgyzstan and, after a 10-year spell in Israel, immigrated to Australia when he was 13.
Settling with his family in Melbourne, the young Richter could hardly speak English.
Now, Melbourne defence lawyer Balot said Richter’s eloquent performances have become folklore in Victorian legal circles.
“He never says more than is necessary in court and his techniques of persuasion are second to none,” Balot said.
“Even when he whispers his voice is resounding and modulated.”
Gangland figure Mick Gatto leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court surrounded by media in 2010. Gatto was appearing in court on drink driving charge