For the most part I’ve so far avoided in this blog discussing personalities in our legal system, even though there are some larger-than-life characters who frequent our courts, both on the Bench and at the Bar Table.
Today I’m making an exception to that self-imposed rule.
Today, my former colleague, mentor, and my friend, Ian Dunn, retires after 50 years in the police force. I shall miss him dearly, and his retirement will be a great loss to both the police force and Prosecutions Division, and to our community. It just doesn’t seem right in the natural order of things for Dunnie to not be sitting at a mess-room table somewhere come Monday, cutting an apple with his knife, throwing a tea-bag at the bin (and more often than not, missing), and telling stories with as many twists and laughs as a Two Ronnies joke.
I guess most of us encounter people throughout our life who we remember for making a difference or teaching us something. Ian is and was such a person for many people, not just me, and is something of a minor celebrity in Victoria Police. Partly for his encyclopaedic knowledge of the law and evidence, and his fearless and relentless advocacy. But also for his strength of character and preparedness to taking ‘the bastards’ on, whomever they happened to be. Ian was well regarded for challenging various ‘bosses’ throughout the police force for all sorts of shortcomings, and standing up for doing the right thing. Though it sometimes came at some personal cost to him, his reputation for being frank and fearless earnt Ian much well-deserved respect and admiration from his colleagues, and from folks he dealt with in the courts. He was well regarded as a cunning, crafty and tenacious advocate who did his job with integrity. I know one silk who considers Dunnie amongst the finest advocates he’s encountered.
We often hear talk about ‘corporate memory’, which masks the fact that it’s individuals like Ian who hold those memories and that accumulated knowledge and experience. I never ceased to be amazed by the times I would have a question and Ian would search through his renowned collection of folders and produce some on-point case I had never heard of. More than a few of them involved him originally as informant or prosecutor — and so he could tell us all about the back-story and the individuals involved. (A couple of them were decided before I was even born!) His legendary filing system was put to other good use too: Ian had an extraordinary collection of humorous and slightly-damming reports, photos, notes, letters and emails he could produce at short notice for a laugh about our foibles and stuff-ups.
Amazingly, Ian’s passion for prosecuting and policing is just as strong as ever. After 50 years, and on the cusp of retiring, you’d think he might be tidying up his desk — that was always on his to-do list — and taking things easy. But, I was at Heidelberg yesterday, and there he was, in court, still fighting the good fight, as he had for much of the week.
I know Ian will be embarrassed by this small hagiography, but I think it’s important to publicly mark his achievements. It was my absolute pleasure and privilege to work with him and share an office with him for a number of years, and I’m proud to say I learnt a lot from him in that time. Indeed, a mutual friend often accuses me of being an Ian Dunn Mini-Me, and I always reply, “I’m comfortable with that.”
Enjoy your retirement pal. You’ll be missed
Things I learnt from Ian Dunn
- Many legal questions can be solved by knowing the answer to, “What does the Act say?”
- It’s always worth asking, “Is that right?”
- Never be afraid to admit, “I don’t know.”
- Shiraz is a good solution to a lot of things
- Computers always work better when you swear at them
- It’s important to enjoy what you do and have fun at work, and to take pride in doing your job well