EXCLUSIVE: Robert Doyle resigned earlier this year as Melbourne’s lord mayor after a flurry of sexual harassment complaints against him became public. Since then, he’s kept a low profile and the allegations against him have seemingly gone nowhere due to the Liberal Party heavyweight’s apparent ill health. Our Melbourne correspondent, Gary Johnston, takes a look at just how sick Robert Doyle truly is, as well as persisting claims he took advantage of young female students under his care when a teacher in the 1970s.
Robert Doyle, is a sick man. Of that, depending on who you are and – crucially – of your definition of the term, there is absolutely no doubt.
Other adjectives, as ever, are available when it comes to descriptions of Melbourne’s ex-Lord Mayor whose situation, some nine months after he resigned, remains indeterminate. Predatory? Abusive? Sexually avaricious? Victimised? As the old saying goes, ‘You pays your money, you takes your choice’.
Were he facing criminal charges, then Doyle’s status would be wholly unambiguous. Innocent until proven guilty, ‘the burden of proof’ as outlined somewhat self-righteously in the press release of early February announcing his immediate resignation would, at the very least, have afforded all interested parties a timescale of pending resolution. In addition, it would have guaranteed the embattled Doyle a genuine, legal presumption of innocence, pending a subsequent appearance in court.
But he isn’t. Facing criminal charges, that is. As a matter of fact, to date, Mr Doyle hasn’t faced up to anything at all.
Two separate investigations have been convened, with the first, conducted independently in March by Ian Freckleton QC on behalf of the City of Melbourne, finding that Doyle had acted “inappropriately” toward two female councillors, with a further adjudication that the council was not a safe workplace for the women involved. Indeed, Freckleton’s report summed up that “his (Doyle’s) conduct could constitute sexual harassment and gross misconduct”.
Despite these unequivocal comments, no further action resulted as the investigation was suspended after the investigators formed the view that Doyle’s stated ill-health meant he could not “engage”. It’s always fun to compare the reality of some lowly employee under investigation by their boss for some minor misdemeanor if they ever pulled out the old ‘cough, cough, I’m too sick to respond’ ploy. Let alone when being accused of sexual harassment and serious misconduct.
Just over a month later, in April, a second investigation by the Melbourne Health Department failed to reach any final conclusions into allegations that Doyle, the then Chair of the public agency, had sexually harassed the wife of a senior specialist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital at a medical awards ceremony in June 2016.
This time, leading the investigation, Charles Scerri, QC, said whilst he did not doubt the accuracy of the complaints, in the absence of any response from Mr Doyle, he was unable to reach any specific conclusions. (In his report, however, Mr Scerri said the alleged conduct – in particular, touching the complainant’s inner thigh – would constitute ‘serious misconduct of a sexual nature’.)
So, where does this leave us? Nowhere. In truth, to use the title of a classic album by Neil Young, everybody (his alleged victims, the media, the public and indeed Doyle himself) knows this is nowhere.
Continuing to suffer from an unspecified, but presumably stress-related illness, and as such, unable to respond to the allegations, the trail appears to gone cold, and whilst the City of Melbourne claim to have instigated a number of measures designed to protect female staff and elected members, saying in a statement, that it ‘deplored violence against women in all its forms’ and that, ‘as a council, we are united in ensuring such behaviour does not occur again’, there is no sign of any other resolution.
No charges, no recriminations and certainly, no justice.
When it comes to allegations of sexually predatory behaviour of course, Doyle has significant form. Since publishing a number of contentions from an ex-member of Doyle’s team when he was the leader of the Victorian state opposition, True Crime News Weekly has been inundated with correspondence from numerous women – and indeed men – with personal experience of Robert Doyle’s apparent predilections.
Most concerning of all is a protracted series of emails and telephone calls from past students of Doyle when he worked as a sports master at prestigious Geelong College, expressing concern regarding the behaviour of a teacher known at the time as “Oily Doyley” due to the alleged inappropriateness of his behaviour.
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Amongst numerous other comments, Doyle was described to True Crime News Weekly as “a fox in the chicken pen”, “a sleaze bucket” and “a touchy-feely pest”. This, you might recall, is a man who ultimately took a former student as his wife, a relationship which or may not – and the rumours persist – have begun when Doyle was, in effect, in loco parentis.
Highly respected successful people, now in their middle-age, with no axe to grind other than a perfectly reasonable conception that justice should run its course, have provided us with strong, credible information regarding Doyle’s comportment at the school, evidence that, in many cases, they have been in possession of for years.
“No one is interested in hearing what went on at the school”, one correspondent glumly said, “and yet, everyone knew”.
For perfectly valid reasons, no past Geelong College student has felt able to go public on their personal accounts – and with Doyle’s apparent friends in the media and beyond, who can blame them? – but there appears to be some feeling amongst concerned past alumnus that the dam of silence may well be broken in the near future.
However, back in February, Geelong College claimed in a statement that it had reported two specific accusations of ‘questionable behaviour’ received from ex students relating to Doyle’s time as a teacher at the college, where he taught from 1978 to 1982.
According to Geelong College, this information was provided to Victoria Police’s SANO task force, set up to investigate historic abuse back in December 2015. Though interestingly, Victoria Police claim to have “no record” of such a report, countering, in the bland argot beloved of investigative agencies world-wide, that they were “looking into the matter”.
And there, it seems, the trail not only runs cold, but ices up. Doyle remains incommunicado and it seems unlikely that any further investigations are planned.
It is understood however, that, living quietly at home, Doyle continues to sip lattes at his favourite South Melbourne cafe, whilst remaining in close contact with various influential friends, including well-known Radio 3AW shock-jock Neil Mitchell. Mitchell, according to sources, being one of the regular high profile guests at Doyle’s annual Christmas party which is said to be going ahead this year, as usual.
The alleged victims of Robert Doyle of course, anonymous or identified, like the rest of us, continue to be kept in the dark as to any future scrutiny, leading to not only frustration and anxiety, but an understandable and palpable sense of injustice.
Mr Doyle may not have been bestowed the presumption of innocence, as outlined in his lawyer’s press release, but, on the other hand, it now seems unlikely that he’ll ever have to answer to any allegations, or indeed any criminal charges.
And that, surely, really is sick.