Legal Services Commission responds to barrister conduct
Following the news that a Queensland barrister alleged criminality against an opposing client, the legal services commission has reinforced the standard barristers must hold.
A Brisbane barrister with over 20 years at the bar has been publicly reprimanded and ordered to undertake 12 months’ supervision for making unfounded allegations against a self-represented opponent while he acted for the wife during divorce proceedings.
Andrew Wrenn prepared and filed an application supported by an affidavit that claimed the husband and wife had never been married. When the husband submitted marriage certificates to the effect, Mr Wrenn claimed they were forged in fraudulent behaviour.
Legal Services commissioner Megan Mahon said making these allegations should not be done without substantiating evidence and that the standards for behaviour is clearly set out in the Barristers Rules and the Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules.
“Unsubstantiated allegations made by an experienced legal practitioner against a self-represented opponent fall short of high standards the public and the profession should expect from practitioners,” commissioner Mahon said in a statement.
Commissioner Mahon added that solicitors and barristers have an obligation to ensure the matters before the court are conducted fairly and reasonably: “This becomes even more important in circumstances where the opponent is unrepresented and is clearly disadvantaged in both their knowledge of the law and understanding of legal process.”
In a disciplinary proceeding before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, it was found Mr Wrenn’s behaviour was in breach of rule 64 of the Barristers Rules.
QCAT found the protection of the community from unsuitable practitioners and that the maintenance of proper professional standards was to be considered when determining the orders. QCAT found Mr Wrenn engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct and ordered he be publicly reprimanded with restrictions on his practising certificate.