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Would-be lawyer with assault convictions denied admission

A woman, who was previously convicted for domestic violence offences, has lost her bid to be admitted in Queensland, with the state’s Court of Appeal holding it “cannot feel confident” she is a fit and proper person for admission.

user iconReporter 25 August 2022 The Bar
Would-be lawyer with assault convictions denied admission
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Application for admission

The Queensland Court of Appeal has dismissed the application by an unnamed applicant to be admitted as a lawyer, despite her having achieved the requisite academic and practical legal training qualifications.

The matter follows last month’s decision by the same court to refuse admission to an applicant with child exploitation convictions.


The question before the court in these proceedings was whether the applicant was a fit and proper person, following the disclosure of numerous “suitability matters”.

Those matters included a number of traffic infringements and summary offences committed between 2005 and 2017, such as fare evasion, littering, parking violations and failing to vote.

The applicant also disclosed that, in May 2009, she “violently attacked” her boyfriend, for which she was charged and convicted of unlawful assault with a circumstance of aggravation. She also failed to attend the initial trial date, for which she was charged with breach of bail.

In relation to this matter, the applicant wrote that she is regretful and sorry.

“I do not have an excuse and I understand this crime presents a serious suitability issue. This does not form the courteous character that I have now become.

“I have recovered from a personality problem and a downward spiral by learning through consequences and by, treating people with kindness, I have transformed through self-love,” she wrote.

It was further disclosed that the applicant is the subject of a police protection notice, issued in March 2019 under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Queensland), in relation to multiple instances of physical violence towards her then-partner. A year later, she was also charged with possession of cannabis and a pipe.

Reflecting on the “relationship issues” from 2019–20, the applicant wrote that she now has a higher self-esteem and is unafraid of being alone, and thus “will not take part in a toxic relationship”.

“I suffered from stressors, unsafe accommodation and inadequate socialisation in childhood and adolescence, and I did not have consistent positive role models to learn good behaviour. I commenced adulthood with poor emotional regulation and low self-esteem,” she wrote.

“I do not have an excuse for my previous offending, I am only embarrassed and regretful, and I have become a much better person.”

Board requests for additional information

Under s40 of the Legal Profession Act 2007, the Legal Practitioners Admissions Board requested further information from the applicant in support of her application for admission, including a current report from a psychologist or psychiatrist in relation to the disclosed “personality problem”.

In response, the applicant provided a two-sentence letter from a general practitioner, purporting to verify that she does not have mental health concerns and has learned from her mistakes.

The GP’s letter was, the Court of Appeal noted, “quite inadequate”.

The board requested that the applicant undergo a health assessment at its expense, under s87 of the act, with a psychiatrist selected from a panel.

In a letter to the applicant, the board wrote that “failure to comply is a ground to recommend that you not be admitted”.

The applicant wrote back, arguing that she had complied with the s40 request “to the best of my ability”.

“The request stipulated a psychologist or psychiatrist report and because I could not decide on either I considered a letter from a GP that suggests I do not need either is in compliance,” she submitted, arguing that making an appointment with a psychiatrist would interfere with her admission timeline.

In a later affidavit, the applicant submitted that “my mental health is clearly apparent” by virtue of the marks she achieved in her graduate diploma of legal practice.

“I have never suffered from a significant disturbance of thought, mood, perception or memory (including alcoholism and drug dependence),” she penned.

“During PLT with [a particular firm], I appeared numerous times in the Magistrates Court as a clerk and I drafted high quality submissions.

“I will not speak to a psychiatrist. I have spoken to a general practitioner about my suitability and numerous other people who have supported me. I have recovered from whatever problems I had.”


The application to be admitted must be dismissed, Chief Justice Helen Bowskill and justices Jean Dalton and Elizabeth Wilson found, because the Court of Appeal “cannot feel confident” that the applicant is, at present, a fit and proper person.

“She has offences of violence in another state. They are somewhat dated, but there is a worrying similarity between them and the behaviour which took place between her and her then-boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend, in Brisbane in 2019,” the court noted.

“Although there were not criminal charges laid as a result of the applicant’s behaviour in 2019, she acknowledges that behaviour involved some physical violence.”

Moreover, the justices went on, there is a “still current” protection order in place, despite the applicant’s attempt to have it lifted”.

Taken alone, the drug offending or the other summary offences may not have troubled a court upon disclosure, the justices reflected. However, the “cumulative effect of all these matters is one for concern”.

Attempts by the applicant to explain her past behaviour, the Court of Appeal went on, “give more reason” to think that she is not a suitable candidate for admission.

“Even accepting that she did not mean to say she had a personality disorder when using the term ‘personality problem’, the affidavits she has sworn on this application, and her correspondence with the board, reveal that she has had prejudicial events and vulnerabilities in her past, including her childhood, and that she has had difficulty coping with these things and their psychological sequelae. She blames them for her violent behaviours.

“The fact that she will not comply either with the s40 notice or the s87 notice issued by the board gives cause for concern. Her affidavits, and correspondence with the board, show inaccuracy and inconsistency in her approach, and an inability to deal in a mature, insightful or rational way with the issues her behaviour raises,” the justices espoused.

The applicant argued, the Court of Appeal said, that “she does not wish to dig up her past”, but “in a very real sense”, the justices responded, the concerning behaviour remains recent.

“The offending in 2019 is recent, and the history of the protection orders granted in 2019 and 2020 extends to the present,” the court said.

“The court cannot feel satisfied even that the history of the applicant’s offending, and the history of the domestic violence orders made, is complete on the material before the court.”

The applicant was anonymised in the court’s reasons with regard to s159(2) of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act.

The case citation is In the matter of an application by RBI for admission to the Legal Profession [2022] QCA 156.