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Aspiring lawyer with criminal history questions open justice

An application to close the court for a disciplinary matter concerning an aspiring lawyer’s criminal history has been thrown out.

user iconNaomi Neilson 09 January 2024 Big Law
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Allegations from the Queensland Legal Services Commissioner (LSC) that the man – whose name has been protected – did not disclose his Children’s Court convictions to a law firm and in an application for admission to practice will be aired in open court.

The interlocutory application was heard in the Brisbane Supreme Court last month, with Justice Lincoln Crowley noting the principles of open justice are “fundamental and of paramount importance”.

The man, who will argue there was no need to disclose his spent convictions to the firm, submitted the disclosures of his convictions in open court may be “impermissible and unnecessary”.

 
 

But Justice Crowley said the man’s concerns do not “tip the balance in favour of an order for a closed court”.

“It must be borne firmly in mind that an order for a closed court is an exception to the principles of open justice,” Justice Crowley said.

“The commissioner’s substantive application concerns matters of importance to the administration of justice, and it is very much in the public interest for the proceeding to be open and able to be freely observed and reported upon, as far as practicable.”

The LSC also filed an application to give pseudonyms to its employees who swore affidavits about the man’s convictions.

The commissioner submitted it is concerned these employees would be at risk of breaching the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, which restricts the publication of certain information regarding the respondents and proceedings in the Children’s Court of Victoria.

However, Justice Crowley said it would not be in the public interest to make these orders for the employees.

This is especially considering that even if there were a breach, the identities of the employees “would be readily discoverable, irrespective of any pseudonym”, Justice Crowley determined.

“The principles of open justice is one of the most fundamental aspects of the justice system in Australia,” Justice Crowley said.

“It is deeply entrenched and a cornerstone of our judicial system.”

The LSC is seeking injunctive relief to restrain the man from working or seeking to work as a lay associate unless given approval.

It is also seeking a declaration the man breached the Legal Profession Act by failing to disclose a suitability matter when applying for admission to the legal profession.