Orders made for solicitor guilty of dishonest and unethical conduct towards NSW Police
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal has made orders against a solicitor who, in July, was found guilty of professional misconduct for knowingly providing false and/or misleading details and inappropriate communication and conduct towards NSW Police.
The NSW Legal Services Commissioner alleged earlier this year that the solicitor, whose name was withheld from the tribunal’s judgment, had given a false name, false date of birth, a false answer to a question of whether he had identifying documents, threatening a senior constable, resisting arrest and using offensive language.
The grounds were made out, with the tribunal holding that the solicitor’s interaction with police could “fairly be described as lacking honesty and integrity and objectively dishonest by the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people”.
A second hearing was held in late November to consider the appropriate orders to be made as a result of the earlier finding of professional misconduct.
The LSC submitted that in light of the solicitor’s evidence of “insight and active efforts towards rehabilitation”, it no longer sought removal from the roll as a disciplinary order. Instead, it sought a reprimand, costs and an order that should the solicitor re-apply for a practising certificate, he should notify the relevant authority of these disciplinary proceedings.
It further accepted that the solicitor was “genuinely contrite and has an understanding of the wrongfulness of his conduct, the seriousness of his failure” and that the conduct was “isolated in nature in light of the solicitor’s disciplinary history and explicable in light of his untreated (or poorly treated) alcoholism, depression and anxiety”.
The tribunal agreed that the evidence did not give rise to a finding that the solicitor was presently unfit to practice, and that the conduct which led to the finding of professional misconduct was “one-off in the sense that it occurred on a single evening”.
It held that the solicitor is at a “low-risk of reoffending and is unlikely to be an ongoing risk to the profession’s reputation”, and thus the protective function proposed by LSC would be sufficient, as it would allow regulatory authorities to make further enquiries that they deem appropriate.
The tribunal further accepted the order sought by the solicitor, and not opposed by LSC, that his name be withheld from the judgment, as the previous disclosure of his name in the decision from July had “undoubtedly caused the solicitor embarrassment and distress” and that such an order would not diminish the deterrent factor of the decision.
“We accept the solicitor’s evidence that he has found publication of the [earlier] decision to be extremesly stressful and we are of the view that his own rehabilitation might be assisted by agreeing to make the anonymisation order,” the tribunal said.
As such, the solicitor was reprimanded, ordered to pay costs, and the tribunal held that should he re-apply for a practising certificate to either the Law Society of NSW or the NSW Bar Association, he must draw these proceedings to the attention of the relevant regulatory authority and provide that authority with an updated medical and alcohol treatment report.