A 23-year-old court clerk was allegedly bullied by senior staff after it was revealed she was in a relationship with a magistrate who was 45 years older.
Ashleigh Petrie died after being hit by a car in October 2019, shortly after her relationship with Victorian magistrate Rodney Higgins, 68, went public.
A whistleblower told the Herald Sun that Ms Petrie was at the centre of a ‘vile culture’, with sexual harassment and bullying continuing to plague the court.
On one occasion she was allegedly openly ridiculed in a busy courtroom by other staff after they were made aware she was in a relationship with Mr Higgins.
A whistleblower said Ashleigh Petrie (pictured with Rodney Higgins, 68) was at the centre of a ‘vile culture’ where sexual harassment and bullying continues to plague the courts
Ashleigh Petrie, 23, was in a relationship with a magistrate who was 45 years older before she died in a car crash
‘I couldn’t believe it, she was 23 and I thought, what are you talking about, you have a duty of care to her… she was destroyed, they bullied her,’ the source said.
Senior victim advocates within the court’s family violence branch had voiced their concerns about how Ms Petrie was treated, but the source said nothing was done.
The source said a ‘vile culture of sexual’ and bullying is deeply embedded within the Victorian Magistrates Court system.
‘They hire dozens of young girls every year, and she was one of them. She was 19 when she started,’ they said.
Daily Mail Australia have put questions about the alleged ‘toxic culture’ to the Victorian Magistrates Court, but the they have declined to comment.
There is no suggestion Mr Higgins was among those who allegedly bullied Ms Petrie.
The couple’s relationship has been thrust into the spotlight again recently after it emerged the magistrate was to receive her entire $180,000 superannuation payout.
The source said that on one occasion Ms Petrie was openly ridiculed in a busy courtroom by top officials after they were made aware she was in a relationship with magistrate Rodney Higgins, 68 (pictured together)
Senior victim advocates within the court’s family violence branch had voiced their concerns about how Ms Petrie (pictured with Mr Higgins) was treated, but the source said nothing was done
Victorian magistrate Rod Higgins has claimed the $180,000 super fund of his former fiancee Ashleigh Petrie (together, above). The 23-year-old died eight days after the pair became engaged (right) after weeks of scrutiny about their controversial relationship
She had bequeathed the entire balance and death benefit of her super and life insurance to her struggling mother.
But after her death, Mr Higgins argued that because they’d been living together for about 12 weeks, he was her ‘dependent’ and therefore entitled to her super pay out upon her death.
Rest Super agreed and awarded him the money despite what Ms Petrie requested, but the funds have been tied up as her mother begs the court to reconsider.
Some 1,500 Australians have since signed a petition demanding the fund to give the cash to Ms Petrie’s mother, as per her wishes.
Ashleigh Petrie (pictured, left) died in October 2019 while in a relationship with Mr Higgins, who has since reunited with his former partner Lurlin Le Neuf (right)
‘What is the point of nominating a beneficiary if an old white dude can just swan in and claim it out from under them?’ Shannon McDonald, who created the petition, said.
‘It’s been a win-win-win for him… We’re asking Rest Super to overturn this abhorrent decision.’
After Ms Petrie’s death, Mr Higgins moved back to the riverside home in Shepparton he shared with his former partner, Lurline Le Neuf, to resume their 18-year relationship.
He is still employed as a magistrate and earns $324,000 a year.
For confidential support in Australia call the Lifeline 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14.
Mr Higgins (pictured with Ms Petrie) is still employed as a magistrate and earns $324,000 a year