High-profile Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet has pulled out of appearing on Q&A’s panel to discuss the #MeToo movement.
His inclusion on the February 15 panel sparked outrage on social media because of sexual harassment accusations against him by three former paralegals – claims he denies.
The ABC announced Mr Waterstreet had to withdraw on Thursday, the same day he was due to appear on the show.
‘Barrister Charles Waterstreet has had to withdraw because of concerns about his appearance expressed to him by the New South Wales Bar Association,’ it said.
‘It is disappointing Mr Waterstreet will not be able to contribute to the perspectives canvassed in tonight’s discussion.’
High-profile Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet has defended agreeing to appear on Q&A to discuss the #MeToo movement
Taking to Twitter on Thursday, Mr Waterstreet said ‘it is with deep regret that I announce that I am pulling out of the Q&A special on the #metoo movement’.
‘I was looking forward to discussing the topic from a legal perspective, sharing my knowledge of the law and past cases to broaden the wider community’s knowledge of this important subject,’ he said.
‘However, I must be first and foremost guided by my obligations to the NSW Bar Association and the broader legal profession.
‘When considering these obligations, I do not consider that it would be appropriate for me to appear on the panel, given the controversial nature of the topics.
‘I look forward to watching the other panellists tonight.’
The controversial criminal lawyer said he could contribute his expertise to the ‘lively debate’, particularly on legal distinctions between sexual harassment and assault
Mr Waterstreet was forced to defend his invitation to appear on the show late last month.
The controversial criminal lawyer said he could contribute his expertise to the ‘lively debate’, particularly on legal distinctions between sexual harassment and assault.
‘As a barrister, every shade of sexual assault and harassment is exposed to me so that qualifies me to present legal distinctions,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It would also allow me the opportunity to grow my understanding and appreciation of the issues surrounding this topic.’
ABC asked him to be on the panel without ever saying why, and the allegations against him weren’t mentioned, but ‘taken as a given’, he said.
‘I thought I could contribute rather than stand silent,’ he said.
Mr Waterstreet has a history of taking on challenging cases, often of a sexual nature and frequently dealing with issues of consent, few others will touch.
He is defending Sydney businessman Liam ‘The Wolf’ Murphy, who is accused of sexually assaulting two women he met via online fetish forum Fetlife.
Mr Waterstreet has a history of taking on challenging cases, often of a sexual nature and frequently dealing with issues of consent, few others will touch
He is defending Sydney businessman Liam ‘The Wolf’ Murphy (L), who is accused of sexually assaulting two women he met via online fetish forum Fetlife
The colourful lawyer, who inspired ABC’s Rake TV series, hoped to discuss the presumption of innocence, even on social, as opposed to criminal, matters.
‘Also the distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault, which has been blurred in the current climate,’ he said.
Mr Waterstreet was to be on the panel alongside actor Rachel Griffiths, Macquarie University gender studies professor Catharine Lumby and employment lawyer Josh Bornstein on the Q&A episode.
In anticipation of his Q&A panel appearance, he said he expected to be ‘firmly challenged’ by them and host ABC breakfast radio presenter Virginia Trioli, standing in for Tony Jones, about his alleged misconduct.
‘Hopefully it will be brief. I have great faith in the host and the character and the other panellists that it won’t derail the discussion,’ he said.
‘The point isn’t to talk about me, but the whole issue. I have rights too.
‘I would applaud a lively debate discussing this highly misunderstood but laudatory campaign.’
The colourful character, who inspired ABC’s Rake TV series, hoped to discuss the presumption of innocence, even on social, as opposed to criminal, matters
Law student Tina Huang, 21, alleged he played her a video during her job interview of himself receiving a hand job from two naked prostitutes
Numerous posts online compared the barrister to disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which Mr Waterstreet said was ridiculous.
‘To compare the allegations against me with his is to be hysterical and to undo much of the fantastic work the #MeToo campaign can and will achieve,’ he said.
‘I spend my days in court defending the underdog. I abhor the conduct of Harvey Weinstein, and to compare us in a rational debate is harmful.’
Mr Waterstreet said there was a tendency on social media to sensationalise comparatively minor allegations and compare them to much more serious ones.
‘A sense of proportion should be exercised, even by those who sadly believe [the allegations against me],’ he said.
‘People are passionate on social issues but passion and justice should be even-handed.
‘It is hurtful to see down-and-out lies repeated by otherwise rational people and there needs to be a line drawn between unseemly and impermissible.’
Genevieve Wilks, who worked for Mr Waterstreet for 10 months, claimed she and other female employees were frequently sexually harassed and subjected to crude comments
Am email Mr Waterstreet allegedly sent several female employees including Ms Wilks in 2015
Mr Waterstreet was late last year accused of sexual harassment by three paralegals who claimed he made inappropriate comments during their employment.
Law student Tina Huang, 21, alleged he played her a video during her job interview of himself receiving a hand job from two naked prostitutes.
Another woman using the pseudonym ‘Anita’ claimed he made sexual comments, showed her explicit images, and showed her a ‘double penetration’ dildo.
Genevieve Wilks, who worked for Mr Waterstreet for 10 months, claimed she and other female employees were frequently sexually harassed and subjected to crude comments.
University of Sydney banned Mr Waterstreet from posting job ads through its careers centre in response to the allegations.
Mr Waterstreet said the masturbation video Ms Huang saw was part of a case, as were any other explicit material, as potential hires would need to be comfortable working on those kinds of cases.
He also denied many of the other allegations, and Daily Mail Australia has seen correspondence and spoken with witnesses who refuted many of the claims.
Actress Rachel Griffiths will also be on the panel of the Q&A special on February 15
Macquarie University gender studies professor Catharine Lumby will join Mr Waterstreet on the panel
Employment lawyer Josh Bornstein is the third member of the special Q&A panel
Dozens of social media users nonetheless insisted it was ‘deeply inappropriate’ for him to be on the panel, calling it an ‘unacceptable, petty little stunt’.
‘There are one of two messages women can take from this @QandA : ‘you don’t matter’ or ‘we don’t believe you’,’ one woman wrote.
Other comments compared him to Harvey Weinstein, Don Burke, and Craig McLachlan, and one even set up a petition calling on ABC to kick him off the panel.