ODPP solicitor reprimanded for misleading police

ODPP solicitor reprimanded for misleading police

23 December 2021 By Naomi Neilson

A former police sergeant-turned-solicitor with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has received a reprimand and a finding of unsatisfactory professional conduct for misleading officers in two separate matters she had carriage of.

Solicitor Kristy Anne Speirs, who was formerly a police officer between May 1999 and January 2009, was found to have unintentionally misled a Detective Sergeant and Detective Senior Constable in two matters she had carriage of. In addition to the reprimand, Ms Speirs was ordered to pay the Legal Services Commissioner’s costs.

The first matter took place in or around 2016 and concerned an allegation of murder. During a telephone conversation and then again in emails, the Detective Sergeant sought an authority to obtain an induced statement from a witness.

The police had previously obtained approval to obtain this statement, and so the detective sergeant inquired of Ms Speirs whether the earlier authorisation would be sufficient in protecting the witness during a further interview. Responding to one of the detective sergeant’s follow-ups, Ms Speirs said the report was with chambers.

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Ms Speirs said she does not recall sending the email and believes that if the report was not with chambers when she did send the email, then it was a mistake on her part brought on by the stress of carrying about 50 or so files. This was “well in excess” of the maximum 25 matters set by workplace agreements.

Four months later, the detective sergeant had yet to hear from Ms Speirs and contacted someone else at the ODPP, who advised him that they were seeking a replacement for his matter, that Ms Speirs was having issues at work, and that she agreed “four months to obtain this authority is way too long”.

The second matter concerned an aggravated break and enter, during which the residents were seriously injured. Having reviewed the matter, Ms Speirs requested of the Detective Senior Constable in charge of the investigation to add more serious charges. Around this time, the defendant’s solicitors discussed a plea deal.

In March 2017, Ms Speirs said she had a conversation with the Crown prosecutor Michael Clark about the matter and that she thought it was worth accepting the pela rather than proceeding to trial. Ms Speirs said Mr Clark agreed, but he does not recall discussing the matter with Ms Speirs. Neither does he recall giving any direction and, had he done so, it would have been followed up with an email.

In a conversation with the Detective Senior Constable, Ms Speirs said words that stated or implied that a direction had been obtained from the Crown prosecutor. When the Detective Senior Constable requested a copy of that direction, Ms Speirs said she didn’t have it at that moment, “but I’ll forward you a copy as soon as I do”.

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Ms Speirs said she did not intend to mislead the officer and added that while she does not recall sending the email, she understands that she would have intended to send her the written confirmation from the Crown once she obtained it. However, she then realised that she could not, given the direction would be considered a privilege.

“In all of the circumstances, and particularly having regard to the fact that it is not alleged in the Agreed Statement of Facts that Ms Speirs intended to mislead DS Zervas and DSC Robinson, we find that Ms Speirs conduct, as set out in the Instrument of Consent, amounts to unsatisfactory professional conduct rather than the more serious professional misconduct,” the tribunal found.

The judgment can be found on AustLII or JADE: NSW Legal Services Commissioner v Speirs [2021] NSWCATOD 200 (10 December 2021).

ODPP solicitor reprimanded for misleading police
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