Ruth Shann – Barrister Profile
It is a difficult task to adequately describe the abilities and aptitude of a barrister like Ruth Shann. Her praises are sung by criminal defence lawyers and judiciary alike. Her successes have been significant and many high profile. Yet she is only 36 years old. She was admitted to the bar roll in November 2008, having been admitted to practice only 19 months earlier. However, in 8 years her resume is impressive.
Galbally Rolfe Criminal Lawyers can claim the distinction of briefing her as leading Counsel in her first murder trial, juniored by Karen Argiropoulos of Counsel and instructed by our office. It was the case of Phillip Bracken, a man who killed his de facto partner in circumstances where he was the victim of abuse at her hands. It was an unsettling case, not simply because the weight of the evidence clearly showed the extremities of the abuse that he suffered and the risk the deceased posed to him and his family, but because of the genders of the Accused and deceased. The perpetrator of the family violence was female and the victim of that violence was male. This was the first trial of its kind. Phillip was acquitted on the grounds of family violence self defence, which opened the door for other victims of family violence who are accused of killing their abusive partners.
Since Phillip Bracken was acquitted in 2014, it is hard to brief Ruth because she is so in demand. She regularly takes on challenging cases, which require a keen forensic eye and attention to detail. She does not distinguish between private briefs and legal aid briefs. She has now appeared in other murder trials and she has not lost one yet. This year she lead the defence of William James Scriven, who was acquitted of the murder of Wayne Bayley. She has also appeared in Plea matters, where the offenders received very reasonable sentences.
She appeared in the Plea Hearing of Michael O’Neill who pleaded guilty to killing his partner, Stuart Rattle. He was sentenced to a total effective sentence of 18 years with a non-parole period of 13 years for the murder of Mr. Rattle. The sentence has been appealed by the Director of Public Prosecutions. She appeared as junior counsel to Philip Dunn QC in the protracted prosecution of Stephen Milne, the former St Kilda AFL footballer, which resulted in a plea to a single charge in the County Court. He received a non-conviction fine. She has recently been briefed to represent Sean Price, charged with the frenzied murder of 17 year old Masa Vukatic, who is to be psychiatrically assessed pending further Court proceedings.
In addition to her Trial and Plea matters, Ruth has appeared before the Coroner’s Court in relation to the family violence related death of Kelly Thompson, representing Ms. Thompson’s family, and also at the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) in relation to the ongoing public hearings regarding alleged corruption within the Education Department. She regularly prosecutes Work Cover matters, navigating both the criminal and civil law jurisdictions.
It is often a sensitive task for a criminal defence solicitor, such as the associates at Galbally Rolfe Criminal Lawyers, to engage a barrister to appear on behalf of a client. The barrister must of course be competent, diligent and across the law. They must also be capable of relating to and communicating with the client, operating as part of a team with our office and appearing in Court fully prepared and across the finer details of a matter. In our office, Ruth Shann is regularly briefed for all these reasons. She is a very hard worker (which is well documented in the number of emails she sends her instructing solicitors in the run up to a trial- one member of our office had to implement an email embargo for two hours to catch up with the emails already sent).
Her style of advocacy is unique to her. She is quietly spoken. She is meticulous, patient and often unnervingly perceptive and polite to even the most hostile of witnesses. She shares with all members of the criminal defence law community an unfettered belief that each person is innocent until proven guilty and that the State has and should always have the onus of proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
“Innocent until proven guilty is one of the most fundamental protections that we’ve all got in Australia, and that protects every one of us from someone knocking at the door with an allegation, and suddenly we’ve got to prove our own innocence. Innocent until proven guilty means the State has to prove an allegation against each of us. We’re free people unless, and until, such an allegation is proved.” – Ruth Shann, R v Phillip Bracken, Closing Address.
In her personal life, when she has time for one, she spends time at home recovering from her recent Court appearances, travelling, and attending health retreats (where she uses the quiet rooms to respond to emails occasionally). If one takes a closer look at her car, a silver Mazda 2, you will see some dings. Until recently, she was a motorcycle rider and so sometimes finds it difficult to navigate even a small car through openings and around poles. ‘
Do not ask Ruth if she saw a recent episode of a TV show or if she has been the cinemas. She will not have if she has any Court appearances to prepare for. She will make time to watch her beloved Melbourne Football Club play (and often lose) whilst maintaining optimism that even the most beleaguered of sides can succeed…eventually.
- Jury lets Phillip Bracken walk free
- Phillip Bracken found not guilty of West Footscray Murder
- Forklift Driver found not guilty of murdering defacto
- Michael O’Neill sentenced to 18 years for murdering his partner, Stuart Rattle
- Interior designer Stuart Rattle’s partner sentenced to 18 years in jail for his murder
William James Scriven
- Masa murder accused to be assessed on fitness
- Vic teen’s accused killer to be assessed
- Man accused of killing Masa to be assessed
The Coronial Inquest into the Death of Kelly Thompson