OUTSPOKEN MELBOURNE barrister Peter Faris, QC has claimed that cocaine use is rife among barristers and solicitors at parties and in social settings.
Faris made the claims after Adelaide police said a 28-year-old woman would be charged with administering a drug of dependence to Melbourne QC Peter Hayes, who is in a critical condition after being found unconscious in a hotel room last Friday.
Police have refused to say what drug was given to Hayes.
“It should be no surprise that wealthy lawyers in Sydney and Melbourne sometimes go to parties and use cocaine,” Faris told Lawyers Weekly.
According to earlier reports, Faris saidthere should be random drug testing of lawyers like those already in place for AFL footballers. But he had different views when he spoke to Lawyers Weekly.
“It’s a lovely concept having lawyers drug tested but it isn’t viable. It wouldn’t work and the profession wouldn’t stand for it.”
He did, however, make an analogy between lawyers and AFL players taking drugs. “The analogy I’ve been making is with the AFL, which for years said ‘no, no, no, footballers don’t take drugs’ and now after the [Ben] Cousins incident blew up we know that footballers do take drugs and they have put in place provisions for counselling them and trying to deal with them.
“But that won’t happen in the legal profession because everyone will say ‘oh no it doesn’t happen’,” he said.
Faris admits he is basing his claims about drug use in the profession solely on gossip, however, he said the number of sources from which he heard such gossip made the rumours more credible.
“If you are hearing the same thing from a number of independent sources it makes it more likely to be accurate than if you are just hearing something that is difficult to believe from one source and I’ve been hearing this from a number of sources,” Faris said.
However, Victorian Bar Council chairman Michael Shand QC has dismissed Faris’ claims as unsubstantiated.
“These comments from Mr Faris are nonsense,” Shand told AAP.
“The Bar Council’s vigilant to maintain the highest standards of practice at the Bar.
“We’re a delegate of the legal service board and we have the power to suspend or cancel practising certificates if circumstances require it.
“But no such case of drug use has come before the council during my time on it,” he said.
Faris said it was time professional associations stopped pretending there wasn’t a problem.
“I think first of all the solution is everyone needs to take a good look at Peter Hayes and wonder whether they want to end up like that. And secondly the professional associations should be counselling their members and trying to deal with it instead of putting their head in the sand,” Faris said.
Hayes remains in the Royal Adelaide hospital with his family, including his former wife, at his bedside.
What do you think? Have you heard about drug use in the profession?