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Child abuser slammed for ‘back-door’ action against Victoria Legal Aid

A convicted child abuser has been criticised by a Supreme Court for launching proceedings against Victoria Legal Aid.

user iconNaomi Neilson 08 June 2023 Big Law
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Victorian man Lin Seng Soo was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for child sexual offences in February 2013 and has since launched a number of unsuccessful appeal attempts.

In October 2019, six years after he was gaoled, Mr Soo alleged Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) breached a duty owed to him and sought damages, but this was dismissed by Associate Judge Melissa Daly in September 2022.

Mr Soo unsuccessfully attempted to appeal the decision this month.

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At the heart of his argument is a May 2013 Court of Appeal decision for an unrelated murder trial that had been stayed until legal aid funding could be provided for a full-time instructing solicitor “on the basis that such representation was necessary for a fair trial”.

At the time, Mr Soo received funding for an instructing solicitor for two half days only, and this was not reconsidered in light of the murder trial’s provision. Mr Soo was convicted shortly afterwards.

In dismissing his original proceedings on the issue, Associate Judge Daly said the proceedings were an “abuse of process because it was an impermissible collateral attack upon the outcome of the trial”.

Mr Soo claimed Associate Judge Daly erred in her decision by concluding that VLA’s failure to fund a full-time instructing solicitor for his trial was “simply an administrative oversight”.

Justice James Gorton rejected this ground of appeal.

Mr Soo also contended Associate Judge Daly erred by characterising his proceeding as a “back-door attempt to overturn his conviction”.

“Her Honour did not treat Mr Soo’s proceeding as an attempt to ‘overturn’ his conviction in a technical sense,” Justice Gorton said.

“Rather, she stated that for Mr Soo’s proceeding to succeed, he had to establish the counterfactual that if VLA had acted as he contended it ought to have acted, then he would not have been found guilty.”

Mr Soo further argued he was denied procedural fairness and that Associate Judge Daly was wrong to consider that he was obliged in his proceeding to “prove that adequate funding by VLA will result in a different outcome in his criminal trial”.

“I agree with Associate Judge Daly that Mr Soo’s proceeding is an abuse of power and should not be permitted to proceed.

“If the validity of the criminal conviction is to be challenged, it must be challenged in the Court of Appeal following the ordinary appellate processes; whether Mr Soo’s trial was unfair due to inadequate legal representation is a matter for that court to determine.

“If the Court of Appeal were to conclude the trial was unfair and to set aside Mr Soo’s conviction, then Mr Soo may be able to commence a proceeding against VLA for damages on the basis that its conduct was a cause of his wrongful conviction,” Justice Gorton said.

“But that is not this case.”

Naomi Neilson

Naomi Neilson

Naomi Neilson is a senior journalist with a focus on court reporting for Lawyers Weekly. 

You can email Naomi at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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