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Byron’s ‘surfing lawyer’ Lester Brien dead at 71

Lester Brien during his competition career. Photo Facebook

Lester Brien during his competition career. Photo Facebook

Byron Bay has lost one of its larger-than-life identities, the surfer turned lawyer Lester Brien, who died peacefully at home on the weekend aged 71.

Lester came to Byron Bay in the l960s to surf and began working as a lawyer in the 1970s, including defending many local surfers who ran foul of drug laws.

According to the Facebook page Century of Surf (COS), Lester was a top competitor of the day, a finalist at the 1968 Australian titles, and a part-time Surfing World correspondent.

When he moved to Byron he soon became the lawyer of choice ‘for every surfer who was busted for drugs on the north coast – of which there were plenty,’ the website says.

‘I was well known around then because I had all these drug cases. If there was a drug case in the northern rivers I was the one acting, and that was simply because I was a surfer and I was known, and it was surfers getting busted for marijuana,’ he recalled in an interview.

In 1977 Lester was summoned before Woodward Royal Commission into the NSW drug trade, which demanded he hand over all his client files.

When he refused he was jailed for six months where, according to COS, ‘he was treated royally by the crims because he hadn’t dobbed any one in’.

‘I was fortunate, I suppose, in that I went in in the best possible circumstances. That is, I went in, from the crim population’s point of view, for failing to give someone up – almost unheard of among solicitors. So I was seen as what they called “staunch”,’ he said.

Lester in recent years. Photo Facebook

Lester in recent years. Photo Facebook

As a result of his actions Lester was disbarred and subsequently ran a string of businesses, including Dinti’s (later Julian Rocks) Bar in Byron in the ’70’s.

He wrote a semi-fictionalised account of his experiences, The Byron Connection, which was published in 1979 and sold 25,000 copies.

In later years Lester ran Surfaris surfing and camping trips between Sydney and Byron Bay with his son Garth.

In 2014 he published his second and final book, The Ton Run and other stories, also set in Byron Bay.


9 responses to “Byron’s ‘surfing lawyer’ Lester Brien dead at 71”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    Why write a book when there is the illustrious, magnanimous mag, the Byron Echo to write in.

  2. Robert Chard says:

    See ya Lester,

    I just didn,t get round to see you like I said I would when I came back.

    Thanks for the breaks. We had some good times in those early days.

    You went too early man. Aloha.

  3. Jon says:

    The over-weaning powers of Royal Commissions! Can they still do that to lawyers today, or others protecting client/patient confidentiality? Disturbing.

  4. Jerry Cook says:

    Sad to see. I saw Lester in surf comps that he ripped in, especially with one at Newcastle..he was red hot at his best then.
    I also was with him at times in Byron, back in the early 70’s, when cannabis was common in use by surfers and others, & attacked by ignorance backed by opposition prohibition profiteers…same as now.

    Lester worked on facts and defended people from that idiots delight injustice. The useless imposed hurt was extended to him for that. Lester had a lot of integrity that authorities still do not have. He worked with truth…the prohibitionists work with lies & ignorance, or are just plain bought off by opposing interests.

    Nothing has really changed here, although a lot has elsewhere on planet.
    In fact, authorities ignorance..if not also bought off..is what fuels the current ramped up attacks here, along with new medical use that challenges the ignorant status quo & scares ignorant police who want no change. Is it protect & serve..or attack & damage..no one is protected by their attacks, just severely damaged for opposition profits. How dumb can it get?

    About time there was education provided (mandatory would be great) to politicians & police based on facts, not lies for opposition profits. There are many articles & references they seem to have no idea of.

    The only real damage from this plant is what authorities impose, which Lester well knew long ago.

    Politicians need to talk with Justin Trudeau of Canada to do the same here..remove all law blocking full use of this beneficial plant & replace it with above ground regulation, and police would do well to talk with LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, for starters.

    There is a lot more info for these people to know, beyond any pro prohibitionist control & outright lies.

    It is totally criminal to keep attacking people who use this plant to both improve & save their lives, and to block industrial & food products use as well.
    Alcohol, tobacco, & big pharma toxic products kill thousands of people every year, and thats legal, seen as just fine. Cannabis is not toxic & cannot kill anyone from direct use, and thats illegal? Thats nuts!

    All the toxic stuff is tossed asap by the body. Non toxic cannabis helps the body & is retained..which makes for an easy bust. Good facts do not count it seems, and bad ones with the toxics get ignored. Easy biz is all that counts it seems, even if bogus.

    This useless insanity must stop, and it will, with truth revealed more widely, even here.
    I wish Lester was able to stay around to see that happen.

    Thank you Lester, for all your hard work, and we can hope police & politicians finally learn too, that their useless.. changes nothing.. imposed damage & cost must end.

    A regulated system with dispensaries provides more money for govt, citizens & infrastructure, and improves & saves people’s lives, rather than damaging & killing citizens at huge cost for prohibition profits to a few.
    That alone should wake up authorities..Follow the money, truth,…and better health. No real reason not to.

  5. Andrew says:

    Back in the day lawyers also practiced property conveyancing. Maybe this is what Woodward was interested in? Not so much about drug use.

  6. Jennifer Douglas says:

    It is with deepest sadness to read today from my residence here on Island of Mallorca Spain, that my ex employer Lester Brien, has passed away and my heart goes out to Lesters Family at this difficult time.

    It was an honour to have been chosen from other candidates to be Lesters secretary for 8 years, he gave myself an opportunity and start in Australia arriving from England, and taught and trained myself all I know in Law today, which I was always entirely indebted to him, he was a wonderful employer in every way, an amazing clever, brilliant and most professional lawyer, whom I held in the highest admiration,respect and esteem, especially so,towards his client care,on a daily basis, even when some clients could not pay their legal fees, he never closed the door to anyone in need of legal assistance, whether Conveyancing, Family Law or litigation matter, yet that was normal Lester a lawyer with an exceptional kind heart, and especially so, his argument,held the principle of client /lawyer confidentiality at all times towards his clients.

    I am sure he will be sadly missed and remembered by so many in both the egal industry and surfing world to.

    Thank you Lester, never to be forgotten and always remembered.

    Jenny Douglas

  7. Philip Pollard says:

    Vale Lester
    a true character and very much part of Byron’s history. He will be much missed.
    Condolences to Eva, Garth and their families.

  8. Louise says:

    I don’t know this man but I am truly sorry to see him go. Deepest condolences to his family

  9. J Giles says:

    RIP Lester. You were a legend surfer and an advocate of the surfing lifestyle. Byron was a better place for your participation and involvement. jg

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