The Royal Commissioners: Justice Peter McClellan


When the Honorable Justice Peter McClellan was announced as chief commissioner of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, he was welcomed as a lawyer with a commitment to fairness and justice.

Former NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith SC said Justice McClellan’s extensive experience in running complex inquiries and his compassion made him an ideal candidate.

“He is one of Australia’s top lawyers,” Mr Smith said in a statement. “I am confident he will give all parties a full and fair hearing and guide the Commission well.”

Justice McClellan is a Judge of Appeal in NSW and was previously Chief Judge at Common Law in the Supreme Court of NSW.

Justice McClellan, who holds degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Sydney, was admitted to practice law in 1974 and admitted to the Bar in 1975.

He was sworn in as a judge of the Supreme Court of NSW in 2001.

The Chief Commissioner has practised across many areas of the law, including planning and environmental law, administrative law, valuation and water-related matters.

In 2011, Justice McClellan became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his services to the judiciary through the Supreme Court of NSW and his in environmental law and legal education.

He served as Counsel Assisting for the Maralinga Royal Commission into British Nuclear Testing in Australia (1984-1985) and was Acting and Assistant Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (1992-1993).

In his opening address to the first public hearing of the Child Abuse Royal Commission in September 2013, Justice McClellan said that until he began his work with the Royal Commission he had not appreciated the “devastating and long-lasting effect” that sexual abuse could have on an individual’s life.

“What many may consider to be low levels of abuse of boys and girls can have catastrophic consequences for them, leading to a life which is seriously compromised from what it might otherwise have been,” Justice McClellan told the hearing.

“Both boys and girls are left with a distrust of adults and difficulties with intimacy. Although the impact of the lives of abused persons has been reported within the academic literature, I have no doubt that it is not well understood by the general community.”

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