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WA criminal lawyer booted from roll for conspiracy to pervert course of justice

A West Australian criminal lawyer was struck from the roll of legal practitioners for conspiring to pervert the course of justice to free a former Rebels bikie from punishment on serious, violent charges.

user iconNaomi Neilson 11 July 2024 Big Law
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The Supreme Court of Western Australia ordered that Gary Rodgers’ name be removed from the roll of legal practitioners after he conspired to pervert the course of justice by pressuring a drug dealer into falsely changing his statement to police.

Justice Paul Tottle said his removal “serves an important aspect of the public interest by demonstrating to the public [that] legal practitioners are required to observe the highest standards of honesty and integrity”.

“A failure to observe these standards calls into question the suitability of a legal practitioner to enjoy the privilege of practising as a lawyer,” Justice Tottle said.

 
 

Rodgers reportedly pressured the drug dealer to assist his client and former Rebels bikie Steven Wayne Taylor, his mother and another man.

At the time, Taylor was facing kidnapping and torture charges.

Rodgers appealed a guilty finding, but the Court of Appeal found it was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt he had agreed with at least one other person to pervert the course of justice.

The court added it was satisfied “the only reasonable inference” on the evidence was Rodgers was aware that another person “had pressured or was pressuring” the dealer “by pestering, encouraging and cajoling him to falsely change his original statements to police”.

However, the Court of Appeal was not satisfied the state had proven the case it ran at trial, and Rodgers’ conviction was quashed.

Despite the conviction being quashed, the Legal Practice Board pushed to have Rodgers’ name removed based on the court’s findings.

Prior to the disciplinary hearing taking place in the Supreme Court, Rodgers signed a proposed minute of orders and consented with the Legal Practice Board to have his name removed.

Justice Tottle said in signing the minute and consenting, Rodgers had “implicitly admitted the conclusions of the Court of Appeal”.

“This is because the sole ground of the board’s application was that it contended that Rodgers was not a fit and proper person to remain on the roll because of those conclusions,” Justice Tottle said.

In his conclusion, Justice Tottle said Rodgers’ role in perverting the course of justice “is misconduct of the most serious kind” and demonstrated his conduct “was at odds” with his profession.

“If the court were to permit Rodgers to remain on the roll, having manifested such dishonesty and disregard for the system he was entrusted to uphold, it would undermine the public’s trust and confidence in the honesty and integrity of legal practitioners.

“The court must send a clear signal to the community and the profession that dishonest conduct of the nature and extent engaged in by Rodgers is manifestly incompatible with him remaining on the roll and will not be tolerated,” Justice Tottle said.