Galbally for the defence by Frank Galbally



In Australia, the name Galbally is synonymous with criminal law.

Frank Galbally was (and probably still is) Australia’s best-known lawyer. Galbally died in 2005 but in his later years published two books, autobiography Galbally! and a follow-up Galbally for the defence.

These books can usually be found nowadays if you hunt around secondhand book shops and op shops (this is where I found my copy of Galbally for the defence).

Quick Background on Frank Galbally:

Galbally made his name in criminal defence in Victoria but was known around Australia. He defended his first murder case in 1950 and by the end of his career had an extremely high acquittal rate by the later years of his career. He started at the law firm of his brother Jack and then established Galbally & O’Bryan, which is still going today.

Galbally died in 2005 after many years with Alzheimer’s disease, which seems such a cruel end for one of the sharpest legal minds in Australia.

In an obituary  colleague Phil Dunn, QC, was quoted: “No murder trial in the 1970s or ’80s was complete without it being announced that Mr Frank Galbally had been retained for the defence.”

frank galbally old pic
A picture of a young Galbally and a client outside court in 1954. Source: TROVE

Now, to the book Galbally for the defence (published 1993) – this features some of the most notable cases Galbally worked on and, in particular, how events unfolded in the courtroom, which was his theatre.

Galbally loved the underdog. it probably stemmed from his childhood as part of a large Irish Catholic family during the Great Depression. Galbally, who trained as a priest before taking up law and himself had eight children – defended those who were hard scrabble, on the fringes and also was a great advocate for Victoria’s migrant communities.

There’s the Italian mother and son, whose English was barely existent, who were charged in 1966 with the murder of their brute of a husband/father. This is one of the longer chapters in the book called “Two sparrows fly to freedom”. And then there’s the stabbing murder of a Pentridge Prison inmate “Snowball”. This is an intriguing chapter because it delves into prison culture and Galbally’s quest to improve conditions for prisoners.

If you can get your hands on a copy of this book it’s well worth the read. (I’m hopefully going to find the memoir Galbally! one of these days.)

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