Application to stay decision cancelling lawyer’s practising certificate refused
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has refused to stay a decision from QLS to cancel the practising certificate of Adam Magill.
In October 2018, Mr Magill – a partner and director of Brisbane-based criminal law firm Lawler Magill – was arrested and charged with multiple offences, including money laundering, two counts of fraud on Legal Aid Queensland, a fraud on Lawler Magill and falsifying a memorandum of fees.
Mr Magill was arrested along with other criminal lawyers as part of an 18-month investigation called Operation Stockade, undertaken by the Crime and Corruption Commission.
He was granted bail but, in subsequent months, breached bail and, in August of last year, he pleaded guilty to five further breaches of bail. In July 2019, Lawyers Weekly reported that Mr Magill had been ordered to wear a tracker and obey a curfew by the Brisbane Magistrates Court.
Late last year, the Queensland Law Society (QLS) resolved that Mr Magill was not a fit and proper person to hold a practising certificate and thus cancelled said certificate.
He applied to QCAT for a review of that decision, submitting that while he ceded that the breaching of his bail conditions was “serious and demonstrated poor judgment”, there was no suggestion that he had discussed his matter with Crown witnesses or that he had tried to interfere in the proceedings, that his conduct did not occur in the course of his practice as a solicitor and that he did not commit a serious offence.
QLS responded as such: “Whilst not suggested that the applicant interfered with any of the Crown witnesses, the mere fact that an experienced criminal solicitor and former police officer breached his undertaking on six occasions bespoke the seriousness of his actions.”
“The applicant’s distinction between breaching the undertaking in his personal capacity, as opposed to his professional capacity, was a false dichotomy,” it added.
Justice Martin Daubney determined that there was “no doubt” that Mr Magill’s “repeated flouting” of the terms of his undertakings was sufficient to give rise to serious concerns about essential elements of a legal practitioner’s character, trustworthiness and respect for the law.
“It is objectively a matter of concern that a person who was a criminal law practitioner well versed in the nuances of bail undertakings and who had previously served as a police officer could have adopted that approach to the bail undertakings they gave,” his honour said.
“It is equally of concern that the seriousness of having given an undertaking and the consequences of breaching an undertaking hit home with the applicant not when he was dealt with by the courts for his breaches but when the QLS moved to cancel his practising certificate.”
Public confidence in QLS is also a relevant consideration, his honour continued.
“Whilst its decisions are amenable to review, the QLS as the regulatory body remains the primary decision-maker. The primacy of its legislatively conferred functions and powers should not be undermined by regarding its decisions as merely provisional pending review,” his honour said.
“In other words, there is a clear public interest in ensuring the efficacy of the work of the regulatory authority and good reason must be shown which would outweigh that consideration,” his honour surmised.
Justice Daubney concluded the Tribunal was “not satisfied” that Mr Magill had demonstrated a cogent reason to justify a stay.
“The public interest considerations are not, in my view, outweighed by the matters on which the applicant relied. Those matters are, by and large, incidents of the prejudice suffered by every practitioner whose practising certificate is cancelled or suspended, but, as I have already said several times, that prejudice does not outweigh the public interest.”
The full case citation is Magill v Queensland Law Society Inc  QCAT 392 and it can be found on the Supreme Court of Queensland’s website.