President's Message


Tribute to Sandy Dawson SC

It is with a very heavy heart that I inform the profession of the devastating loss of our dear colleague Sandy Dawson SC (Alexander (Sandy) Tamerlane Sinclair Dawson SC). Sandy passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.

Our heartfelt condolences and the thoughts of the profession are first and foremost with his wife, children and the Dawson family. I also extend condolences to his close friends and colleagues, not least Banco Chambers.

It is of the utmost importance that as a profession we strictly adhere to respecting the privacy of Sandy’s family at this time. This is especially so given what the family have already endured in the public eye following the death of Sandy’s sister, our colleague, Katrina. Sandy’s family request privacy and in lieu of flowers or meals suggest making a donation to the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation if you wish to do so. A private service will be held, followed by a memorial at a later date, with details to be advised. Condolence notes can be sent to the family via Banco Chambers care of the Clerk, Jeh Coutinho.

I know that many in our profession will be deeply affected today, particularly following the loss of Katrina at such a young age, and that is why I make this exceptional message. I remind members that they can and should feel at ease to seek support from BarCare by contacting Jenny Houen, BarCare's Director, on 0427 317 958 or

Sandy holds a special place in the hearts and consciousness of the NSW Bar. His exceptional talent, breadth of knowledge, practical and tactical genius, and legendary wit and sense of humour all marked Sandy out as a great leader of our profession. Sandy was a barrister of impeccable integrity who was absolutely committed to his duty to the court and his clients. He was a brilliant and engaging advocate whose thorough preparation and formidable cross-examination skills were unrivalled.

Sandy was born to be a barrister. He loved the practice of advocacy and was a master of our craft. He was a true gentleman with the sharpest of intellect. He was an extraordinary friend to many in the profession. His presence brightened our courtrooms and chambers. Many of us will have enduring memories of having to control bursts of laughter following a whispered quip from Sandy at the bar table, Sandy captivating the court, his later regaling colleagues with entertaining stories on return to chambers, or being witness to one of his hilarious impersonations.

Sandy was called to the Bar in 2003 and appointed senior counsel in 2016. He was a member of the New Barrister’s Committee, a Professional Conduct Committee, the Bar’s Defamation Law Working Group and a generous donor to the Bar’s Benevolent Fund. He was also a member of the NSW Government’s Defamation Expert Panel from its formation in 2019. Sandy’s involvement, which he enthusiastically maintained even after being diagnosed with illness, was described as a “major contribution to defamation law reform” by the NSW Attorney General, the Hon. Mark Speakman SC MP.

A founding member of Banco Chambers in 2005, Sandy was a model floor member and a driving force of collegiality on the floor. Sandy was particularly supportive of junior members, educating them in the complexities of the law and the challenges of life at the bar while also nurturing them to achieve their true potential.

Although principally a specialist in media and defamation law, Sandy’s skills extended to class actions, commercial disputes, criminal law, racing appeals and professional liability matters. Sandy acted for Fairfax Media Publications, Channel 7, Ray Hadley (on numerous occasions), Joe Aston from the Australian Financial Review and for the ABC in defamation proceedings brought by Peter V’landys. Most recently, Sandy was lead counsel defending Nine Entertainment in defamation proceedings brought by Ben Roberts Smith, handing over the reins in the case following meticulous preparation. He also acted for Labor MP Emma Husar in proceedings brought against Buzzfeed and Erin Molan in proceedings against the Daily Mail. This only scrapes the surface of his work for and against the media and does not reflect the multiple hours of advice work that he did for many networks on key programs, such as Four Corners and 60 Minutes.

The profession will never forget Sandy’s fortitude and resilience during the Lindt siege, following Katrina’s death and at the lengthy inquest, all excruciating in turn. Sandy’s return to practice exemplified his courage and dedication to the profession. As a director of the Katrina Dawson Foundation, Sandy for years supported the education of women with the Foundation providing scholarships for female undergraduates to attend the Women’s College at the University of Sydney. Sandy was also a member of the selection panel for the Katrina Dawson Award through which he supported the discovery and mentoring of a luminous procession of exceptional female barristers.

The outstanding example Sandy set in all aspects of his professional career is engraved in our collective consciousness.

Sandy faced his final battle with cancer with his customary grit, fierce determination and devotion to those he loved.

While Sandy was committed to the Bar, it was love for his wife, children and wider family that was of foremost importance to him.

The Bar, bench and our wider members deeply mourn his passing. Vale Sandy.

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