We know from the media that prominent Melbourne barrister Peter Hayes QC is on life-support and fighting for his life in an Adelaide hospital. Although the evidence of the cause of this has not yet been released, we know that a call-girl has been charged with injecting drugs into him.

The suggestion is that this is a tragic consequence of the party lifestyle of some prominent citizens where recreational drug-taking, particularly cocaine use, is common.

I know Peter Hayes and have been with him and against him in a number of cases. Peter is a good bloke and a brilliant lawyer. This is a tragedy. It is such a terrible waste. I have chosen to publish my views in the vain hope that this tragedy will not occur to others.

I have had anecdotal evidence over the last seven years or so that cocaine is the drug of choice of high-flyers on the Melbourne legal scene. I am now getting reports that it’s worse in Sydney.

Obviously I do not have evidence of all this, but the reports that I have are sufficiently common to make the matter very disturbing. Irrespective of the actual circumstances that have laid Hayes low, the incident has served to bring the broader issue to the surface. I note that David Galbally QC has made similar comments to the media about cocaine use in the legal profession.

About seven years ago, prominent Melbourne solicitor Andrew Fraser was arrested, charged and jailed over cocaine offences. Fraser has been recently released from jail and is now clean. He is about to publish a book on his experiences.

At the time of Fraser’s arrest, there was a number of Melbourne QCs and senior lawyers who were named by the Bar rumour-mill as being users of cocaine. A number of police have told me that Fraser discussed, on his telephone, the cocaine habits of lawyers with them and with suppliers. These discussions were recorded by the police. I believe that tapes are still in the possession of the police. They have never been made public.

Perhaps if something had been done about it seven years ago, Peter Hayes would not be fighting for his life. I don’t know.

I also don’t know what the solution is but I do hope that the Hayes incident is a wake-up call.

Cocaine is an expensive drug which is largely used by wealthy people indulging in a party lifestyle. There can be no dispute that it is common in the media and amongst certain sportsmen. It is absurd to think that it’s not a problem for wealthy lawyers as well.

When we witness the tragedy of young people dying from drug overdoses, we sometimes (partly) explain it by youth and immaturity. That makes it all the more shocking if some of the leaders of the legal profession are risking death by the use of cocaine. What a waste.