Drug-dealing government lawyer to be struck from roll

A Queensland prosecutor said he began using and dealing drugs to cope with the trauma of working with child sex offenders.

user iconNaomi Neilson 12 June 2024 Big Law
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Content warning: This article deals with child abuse material.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) has recommended the name of the lawyer, whose name has been protected, be removed from the local roll several years after he pleaded guilty to a string of drug offences.

After being involved in a car crash in August 2020, police located 32 Tramal tablets and 49 Lyrica tablets – both prescription drugs – in his backpack and wallet, along with $810.75 worth of Australia Post prepaid satchels and $10,535 cash bundled up with rubber bands.

A search of his home revealed 5,950 tablets of prescription drugs in a black suitcase, a glass pipe, and a handwritten inventory list.

The lawyer pleaded guilty to one count of supplying dangerous drugs, one count of possession of property suspected of being proceeds of an offence, and four counts of possessing dangerous drugs. He received a three-month prison sentence that had been suspended for an operational period of two years.

He also received three years’ probation for one count of unlawful possession of controlled drugs, one count of possession of pipes or utensils, and one count of possession of restricted drugs.

No conviction was recorded.

The lawyer said he only began dealing drugs to pay back debts from his dependency and to fund his personal use.

The tribunal was told the lawyer had his “fair share of struggles with mental health issues” and had developed permanent post-traumatic stress disorder because of his exposure to child abuse material.

Justice Kerri Mellifont said it was clear his repeated exposure to the material had a “profound and lasting impact on him”.

In addition to the drug dependency, this trauma meant the lawyer was in and out of the emergency room for substance overdoses.

“The work that he was doing at that stage is important work for our community, and the prosecution of such offences helps to detect and deter and imprison disgraceful and disgusting predatorial behaviour.

“It is a great shame that that work has had such dramatic consequences for the respondent, and the tribunal commends him for his continued efforts in respect of his mental health, and efforts at [drug] rehabilitation and treatment,” Justice Mellifont said.

In addition to the drug charges, the lawyer was charged eight counts of giving a false medical certificate to his employers to obtain 12 and a half days of sick leave without pay. The tribunal was told he had already used up all of his entitled paid sick leave.

In a letter to the Legal Services Commission, the lawyer said he “foolishly used” the certificates to “gain some breathing space” so he could cope with the requirements of his job.

He added he was “deeply remorseful” for his conduct.

For the drug offending and false certificate charges, the lawyer was found guilty of professional misconduct.

His failure to advise the Queensland Legal Service of his criminal offending amounted to unsatisfactory professional conduct.

In addition to the recommendation to have his name removed from the roll, he was ordered to pay costs.

Help is available via Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636. Each law society and bar association also has resources available on their respective websites.

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