Police investigate following top legal eagles' swanky party
The writers of Rake would be hard-pushed trying to create a better scene than the one several witnesses have described being played out inside an exclusive party for a gathering of Sydney's elite legal eagles.
Richard Roxburgh as Cleaver Greene in the series Rake.
Sydney City Police confirmed to PS they are investigating an "incident" that allegedly occurred on August 2 at the swanky Calyx function centre in the Royal Botanic Garden, involving two of Sydney's most successful female lawyers.
On that night around 300 lawyers, barristers and clients had converged for an annual knees-up being hosted by Branco Chambers, which counts among its luminaries prominent Sydney silk Sandy Dawson.
According to the police statement issued to PS: "A 46-year-old woman was in a function room at the Royal Botanic Garden.
"Police have been told during the evening, another woman approached her and assaulted her.
"She left and police were alerted.
"An investigation into the incident is being conducted by officers from Sydney City Police Area Command."
For the past month the Branco Chambers party has become the talk of legal circles, especially as it has emerged that the woman at the centre of the allegations is Amanda Banton, a partner and prominent corporate lawyer at blue ribbon firm Squire Patton Boggs.
Banton, who is the partner of one of Australia's biggest litigation funders Paul Lindholm who was involved in a scuffle with police back in 2010 after being caught drink-driving twice in one night, was in the news in July after being called a "concurrent wrongdoer" in a separate court case involving the logistics company GetSwift, which is being sued in a class action by investors.
Ruffling feathers: Sydney legal eagle Amanda Banton.
Banton is representing the investors, however according to GetSwift's defence, the company claims
it should pay less damages to investors because Banton's law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, falsely claimed the company was facing a $300 million claim when it was only about $75 million.
She also made headlines following the sale of her Victorian terrace house in Paddington in recent months, pocketing a hefty $7.4 million after buying the property for $2.55 million in 2010 from Adam Tilley.
But back to the August "incident" at the Banco Chambers soiree.
Bad blood: Elisabeth Pickthall was seen “gasping” for air.
PS can reveal the alleged assault victim was Elisabeth Pickthall, special counsel at rival law firm Hall & Wilcox, who friends say was deeply shaken and left "gasping for air" following the incident.
Partygoers have claimed to PS that Banton grabbed Pickthall by the throat, pinning her against a plate glass wall near an exit.
Another senior lawyer, Shaan Palmer, a colleague of Banton's and a fellow partner at Squire Patton Boggs, intervened and pushed Banton off Pickthall, but not before drawing the attention of many horrified onlookers in the room.
"It really was quite an ugly scene, you just don't expect that sort of behaviour at that kind of party. There were several people who saw it, several very senior legal figures in this town. I was blown away, she really went for her," one witness told PS.
When PS asked Pickthall what had sparked the incident she said: "I have no idea", but declined to comment any further. Pickthall, who left the party with two other lawyers and immediately reported the incident to police, had previously worked with Banton.
PS understands relations between the women degenerated four years ago over a work-related dispute and they parted ways professionally.
PS contacted Banton on Thursday, who said she was: "unable to discuss this, I am in the middle of a mediation, I'll have to call you back."
She is yet to call.
HEADACHES FOR THE 'BREAST MASTER'
Prominent Sydney plastic surgeon Michael Miroshnik, AKA "The Breast Master", has a few more headaches to contend with other than how he is being plugged on those pesky online digital forums PS wrote about recently.
Dr. Michael Miroshnik, plastic and cosmetic surgeon.
Multimillionaire Miroshnik's company MSeven Pty Ltd is being sued in the Federal Court by his former housekeeper, Deborah Crighton, who claims her employment was unfairly terminated following a workplace accident when she suffered back injuries after falling off a step ladder while performing her duties at Miroshnik's home.
Crighton claims Miroshnik's mother-in-law, Karen Sharman, had "shouted" at her after she went to hospital following the fall, and that she felt unsafe remaining at Miroshnik's house. She has since moved to Queensland.
Crighton is seeking 52 weeks' lost pay – $43,161 – and compensation of $10,000 for "hurt, humiliation and distress".
The matter is due back in court on October 15 when it is listed for a directions hearing.
PAULA PRATT'S 21st
Friends of the late cardboard billionaire Richard Pratt say he would be bursting with pride if he was still alive today to see the woman his youngest child has grown into.
Last Saturday night around 100 family and friends gathered at Dunbar House in Watsons Bay for a cocktail party to mark Paula Pratt's 21st birthday. While none of the Pratt family were there, PS has previously revealed that Anthony Pratt has kept a close eye on his half-sister.
"It was really good to be able to share the night with family and friends, we had lots of photos of dad to share, we tried to make him part of it as much as we could," Paula told PS.
Paula Pratt at her 21st Birthday in Watson’s Bay last Saturday.
"People say I have inherited my dad's sense of humour … I'm almost finished university and looking forward to getting on with my career. I'm not really that interested in the limelight, I'd rather just get on with my life now."
Set to graduate from her Bachelor of Commerce degree majoring in finance and economics later this year, the youngest Pratt appears to have also inherited her father's business nous.
Among the speeches on Saturday night was one from Richard Pratt's good friend, prominent lawyer Andrew Fairley.
Richard Pratt and Paula.
"Yeah, my head is fairly well screwed on, you won't see me on The Bachelor," Paula Pratt said.
Indeed the discovery of her existence 21 years ago set the Australian media into a frenzy after it was revealed she was the "love child" of Pratt and his mistress, Shari Lea Hitchcock.
As for recent reports Paula would inherit $100 million on her 21st birthday, she drolly commented: "don't believe everything you read, I work for a living".
FAMILY TRIO MAKE SPLASH
The family that dresses together stays together? Or at least something like that.
The Simpson d’Alessandro making a fashion statement as a family.
PS has taken a particular shining to recent additions to Sydney's more fashionable hotspots with the arrival of English expats, Simpson d'Allessandros.
The young family comprises of father Tom Simpson, the head of menswear at The Iconic, one of Australia's largest online fashion retailers.
Then there is his wife, Rachael d’Alessandro, the head designer at Australian denim label One Teaspoon (famous for its barely-held-together ‘destroyed’ jeans, as seen on the Kardashians, Beyoncé and a host of other celebrities).
And rounding out the trio is their three-year-old social media sensation Venice Simpson d’Alessandro (sure she only has 53 followers on Instagram, but her 'content' is next level).
Catwalk family life – the Simpson d’Alessandros.
"It was my wife's idea to wear the matching commando overalls, it was just a bit of fun and Venice really enjoyed it … I think it has set a bit of a trend for us, we seem to be coordinating our clothing quite a bit," Simpson says.
The trio made a splash at the recent New Zealand Fashion Week in Auckland and PS has high hopes of a similar sartorial display soon on a Sydney red carpet.
PS felt thoroughly gypped on Monday night at this year's Vin de Champagne Awards, recognising Australia's greatest lovers of French fizz.
Having slavishly committed to honing my bubbly drinking skills over too many years to count, sadly there was no recognition coming your columnist's way at Quay restaurant as 200 of Australia's top wine experts soldiered on with a tasting of 18 champagnes paired with four gourmet courses.
Last year some 8,534,000 bottles of champagne was shipped from France to Australia, making us the sixth largest market in the world by volume.
Hats off to Leanne Altmann, the wine director at Melbourne's Super Normal and Cumulus Inc who wrote an extensive dissertation on her champagne knowledge and endured a gruelling panel interview.
And Sunshine Coast local Nicole Smith took out the amateur category. A third time finalist she was asked to match a menu to champagne. She took it on herself to actually create the menu and made the food (one course comprising of Mooloolaba prawns). According to one of the key judges, John Noble, "it was lovely".
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