Love-struck magistrate and fiancee leave partners shattered
Magistrate Rodney Higgins started his affair with court clerk fiancee Ashleigh Petrie when she was just the girl next door, it has been revealed.
When confronted about it, Mr Higgins, a grandfather of eight, admitted: "I've been stupid". But now more than six months after the affair was exposed, sources close to the couple confirmed they had discussed starting a family.
The Herald Sun has confirmed Mr Higgins, 68, and Ms Petrie, 23, were living next door to each other with their respective partners in country Victoria when the relationship started last year.
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The pair met in secret for months before the affair was uncovered, devastating both of their long-term partners.
Now their respective former partners have taken drastic steps to block all communication with Ms Petrie.
It is believed Mr Higgins's partner of 18 years has been left shattered by the affair.
Ms Petrie met Mr Higgins while working as a court clerk in Shepparton. He was a local lawyer at the time.
They lived next door to each other and she became close to both him and his partner. On his appointment to the bench in 2017, Ms Petrie was one of the guests at a celebration in his honour.
But Shepparton locals have told the Herald Sun the once-respected community man lost respect after the affair was exposed. "I used to think magistrates were fine upstanding people in the community, but Higgins has proven that's not always the case," one said.
Despite their engagement, Mr Higgins is still married to his first wife because they were never legally divorced.
It is believed the couple never worked in the same courtroom together, and had disclosed their relationship to court officials months ago. The relationship became public after concerns were raised by court staff and lawyers.
Sources told the Herald Sun Victoria's outgoing chief magistrate, Peter Lauritsen, was forced to intervene after complaints reached his office about the relationship. But he has twice refused to be drawn on the matter.
Respected Melbourne barrister David Galbally, QC, of Madgwicks Lawyers, told Seven News last night the most appropriate thing for Mr Higgins to do would be to step down.
"I'm not sure how any barrister can appear with any degree of confidence before him believing that any decision that is going to be made is going to be made by him and him alone," he said.
"It will cost him his career, I think it will, I'd be very surprised if it didn't."