Professor Cowdery was the Director of Public Prosecutions for the State of New South Wales from 1994 to 2011. That Office is the largest prosecuting agency in Australia. [See www.odpp.nsw.gov.au]
He is now: an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Sydney Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney; a Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Faculties of Law in the Universities of NSW and of Wollongong; and an Adjunct Professor at Charles Sturt University. He is a legal expert consultant to the Commonwealth Secretariat, London and is a consultant to the UNODC on a joint International Association of Prosecutors project and to the American Bar Association on a project in Bahrain.
He was educated at Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney where he was a resident of St Paul’s College (and where he is now an Honorary Academic Fellow). He was admitted as a Barrister in 1971 after undergraduate employment in the office of the Commonwealth Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney. He commenced practice (1971 – 1975) as a public defender in Papua New Guinea (based in Port Moresby, Rabaul and Lae at various times).
From 1975 until 1994 he was in private practice at the Sydney Bar, where he practised largely in criminal law (prosecuting and defending), common law, administrative law and some commercial law. He appeared in most Australian jurisdictions. He is also a member of the Irish Bar. He appeared in, among other cases, the prosecutions of the late Justice Lionel Murphy (of the High Court of Australia) and of the late Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen (former Premier of the State of Queensland). He appeared in the Blackburn Royal Commission in 1989/90 and was counsel assisting the Brennan TRG inquiry in 1991. In 1987 he was appointed one of Her Majesty’s Counsel (QC). He was an Acting (“Associate”) Judge of the District Court of NSW for periods in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
He is a member of the NSW Sentencing Council, of the Advisory Committee of the Sydney Institute of Criminology and of the Criminal Law and Human Rights Committees of the NSW Bar Association. He is Human Rights Advisor to the Law Council of Australia and Chair of its International Human Rights Observer Panel. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law. (He is a former member of the DNA Review Panel, the Advisory Panel of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences, the Advisory Committee of the DNA Laboratory, NSW ICPMR and of the National Child Sexual Assault Law Reform Committee. He was a Board Member of the Black Dog Institute for ten years.)
He was President of the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) from 1999 to 2005 and is an Honorary Member and Chairman of the Senate of the Association and was awarded its Medal of Honour in 2011. [See www.iap-association.org] He was inaugural Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute (HRI) of the International Bar Association (IBA) from its creation in 1995 until 2000. [See www.ibanet.org]
He is also a member of human rights bodies in the International Commission of Jurists (Australian Section) and LAWASIA (of which he is a Life Member). He is a member of the Australian Skeptics, a White Ribbon Ambassador and a Campaign Champion of the Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal Young People Campaign.
He was appointed a Member in the Order of Australia (AM) in 2003 for service to the development and practice of criminal law, and for fostering international relations in the area of human rights. He has received many domestic and international awards.
He is the author of “Getting Justice Wrong: myths, media and crime” (Allen & Unwin, 2001).