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Melbourne lawyer faces contempt charges for second time

A Melbourne lawyer who narrowly dodged criminal charges just months ago for ignoring court orders has been found to have committed two further charges of contempt of court.

user iconNaomi Neilson 03 January 2024 Big Law
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The Victorian Supreme Court found in December that Jonathan Bowers-Taylor failed to disclose to a manager appointed to his firm, JBT Lawyers, that he had been working on a Supreme Court matter and continued to do so without the manager’s knowledge or permission.

In doing so, Mr Bowers-Taylor breached orders made by Justice Peter Gray on 9 August that he be restrained from “preventing, obstructing or otherwise hindering” the manager in his investigation.

Just months ago, the same court found two charges of contempt of court were proven beyond reasonable doubt when Mr Bowers-Taylor failed to provide the manager with software and failed to permit the manager to secure and remove a computer server.


At the time, the Victorian Legal Services Board requested Mr Bowers-Taylor pay costs on an indemnity basis and did not push for the contempt charges to be treated on a criminal basis.

Justice Melinda Richards said it is a “serious matter” for any lawyer to have been found to have committed contempt of court.

“Findings of contempt have now been made against Mr Bowers-Taylor by two judges of this court,” Justice Richards said.

During the course of the Supreme Court proceedings, JBT Lawyers was on the record as the legal representative, and Mr Bowers-Taylor communicated with the client, the other party and the court regarding orders and filing of documents and prepared material for the client.

Mr Bowers-Taylor suggested he had to continue with the proceedings due to an “urgency” with an impending trial date and because he believed the matter would have to be adjourned as the manager “was not qualified to conduct the litigation” in his place.

Justice Richards found there was no evidence to support this and added his omissions were deliberate because “as an Australian lawyer and an officer of the court, [Mr Bowers-Taylor] understood [the orders] meaning and legal effect”.

Justice Richards added the omissions took place not long after the first contempt of court charges were made out.

“During that period, the need for ongoing compliance with the 9 August orders must have been obvious,” Justice Richards said.

“He was conducting the [Supreme Court] proceedings in the same court that had ordered him not to obstruct or hinder [the manager] in exercising his functions as a manager of JBT Lawyers and to provide [the manager] with all client files.”

The board was not successful in advancing one of the three parts under charge one, being an allegation he breached an order to ensure the proceedings were disclosed on the register of client files.

In light of these findings, Justice Richards said it was appropriate to make orders requiring Mr Bowers-Taylor to file and serve an affidavit to supplement information provided in the register of files in August.

“Since Mr Bowers-Taylor had omitted to mention one Supreme Court proceeding, it seemed possible that he might not have informed [the manager] of other matters in which JBT Lawyers was acting.

“I also considered it possible that Mr Bowers-Taylor had opened more than one new file since handing over the register of files. If there are other such matters, it is high time [the manager] was informed of them,” Justice Richards said.

The matter will return in February.

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