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Tributes for Barry O’Keefe, judge, corruption fighter

Barry O’Keefe.BARRY O’Keefe, the former ICAC Commissioner and Supreme Court judge who sentenced Katherine Knight to life imprisonment without parole, has died.
Nanjing Night Net

He made history when he made Knight – the Aberdeen meat worker who killed, skinned and cooked her lover – the first NSW woman to be jailed for life without parole in 2001.

Mr O’Keefe died in Sydney at the age of 79.

He was also the brother of singer ‘‘Wild One’’ Johnny O’Keefe and father of television personality Andrew O’Keefe.

NSW Attorney-General Brad Hazzard said he was saddened to hear Mr O’Keefe had died.

‘‘On behalf of the NSW government, I extend my deepest condolences to Mr O’Keefe’s family, friends and colleagues,’’ he said.

During his long career, Mr O’Keefe was chief judge of the commercial division of the NSW Supreme Court, an additional judge of the Court of Appeal, and a judge of the common law division and the Court of Criminal Appeal.

He also acted for the federal and NSW governments in many leading cases, and for Her Majesty’s Crown Agents in the UK.

From 1994 to 1999 he served as ICAC commissioner. During that time ICAC won international recognition for its work, particularly in corruption prevention and education.

When he stepped down from that role, he said: ‘‘It’s inevitable in a job like this you’ll have enemies if you do your job.

‘‘If everybody is kissing and hugging you, you’re not doing your job. People don’t like to be criticised.

‘‘Politicians see themselves as being very high on the totem pole.’’

After retiring from the Supreme Court in 2004, Mr O’Keefe worked as a consultant for the law firm Clayton Utz.

Mr O’Keefe was married to his wife Janette since 1962. They have three sons and two daughters, and seven grandchildren.

His son Andrew is well-known as the host of the Seven Network’s Deal or No Deal, although he also trained as a lawyer.

Younger brother Johnny was the famous Australian rock’n’roll singer whose hits included Wild One, Shout! and She’s My Baby. He died in Sydney in 1978.

Mr O’Keefe’s funeral will be held on Friday at St Mary’s cathedral, a day after the state funeral of former NSW premier Neville Wran. AAP

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