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‘Disrespectful, highly offensive and embarrassing’ conduct sees lawyer reprimanded

A Western Australia-based lawyer has been found to have engaged in professional misconduct and will not be granted a practising certificate for nine months following conduct that the State Administrative Tribunal noted “can only be described as both bizarre and disgusting”.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 04 April 2023 The Bar
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In April of last year, the WA Legal Services and Complaints Committee commenced proceedings against an individual (The Lawyer) who was admitted to practice in April 2018 but has never held a practising certificate.

Lawyers Weekly has opted not to name The Lawyer for the purposes of this story.

As per the statement of agreed facts between the committee and The Lawyer, the latter engaged in professional misconduct between 20 September 2019 and 16 October 2019, by way of conduct that deputy president Judge Kate Glancy, senior member Dr Stephen Willey, and member Ross Povey — in a decision handed down last week — reflected “can only be described as both bizarre and disgusting”.


The tribunal detailed that, in an unsolicited email sent on 20 September 2019 to two practitioners, The Lawyer made sexually explicit comments about the client of a third practitioner, included a postscript “which contained grossly explicit and sexually demeaning comments” about one of the recipient practitioners, attached screenshots of an internet search referring to the third practitioner’s historical criminal conviction and of that practitioner’s LinkedIn profile, and attached an image which (in the context of the email) “could be taken to be a pictorial representation of the grossly explicit and sexually demeaning comments” made about one of the recipient practitioners.

In unsolicited emails sent on 27 September to two practitioners, Glancy J and members Willey and Povey continued, The Lawyer made inappropriate comments about one of the practitioner’s clients and “did not acknowledge or apologise for the inappropriateness” of the email sent the previous week.

On 15 October 2019, and in response to a letter from the Legal Profession Complaints Committee, The Lawyer “failed to meaningfully address” the conduct issues raised in relation to the 20 September email, “reiterated inappropriate sexual matters, trivialised the conduct and was discourteous”.

And, in an unsolicited email on 16 October 2019 to four practitioners, The Lawyer was “sexually explicit, demeaning and humiliating towards [one of the practitioners], grossly unprofessional, disrespectful, offensive, embarrassing and discourteous”.

That email also disclosed The Lawyer’s sexual fantasies about that practitioner, contained obscene language and was targeted at that practitioner and sent to three other practitioners, the tribunal outlined.

Lawyers Weekly has determined that the content of the emails penned are not suitable for publication.

Speaking about the conduct, Glancy J and members Willey and Povey said: “Disgraceful and dishonourable are adjectives that well describe [the] behaviour in this case.”

“[The] conduct was undoubtedly disrespectful, highly offensive and embarrassing to those about whom [they were] speaking and to others who received [their] communications. [Their] repetition of the offensive comments and the trivialising of conduct in [their] response to the committee’s communications with [them] and [their] failure to meaningfully respond to their communication was also extremely inappropriate.”

In its published reasons, the tribunal noted that The Lawyer accepted, at an early stage of the proceedings, that they had engaged in professional misconduct.

The Lawyer’s admission about the nature of the conduct “shows insight” and that they are “remorseful”, Glancy J and members Willey and Povey said.

Moreover, a psychiatric report provided to the committee submitted that, at the time of the conduct in question, The Lawyer’s judgement was “notably impaired as a result of a combination of [their] depressed mood and [their] use of illicit substances as a form of self-medication and [their] daily consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol”.

The psychiatrist report also detailed that The Lawyer “has been actively compliant with psychiatric treatment and that the results of [their] regular, supervised urine screening confirms that The Lawyer has now been abstinent from alcohol and other illicit drugs for a prolonged period”.

As such, repetition of the conduct is “highly unlikely”, the psychiatrist resolved.

In the tribunal’s view, Glancy J and members Willey and Povey outlined, previous cases show “that where conduct amounting to professional misconduct has been contributed to by an underlying psychiatric condition, it has been accepted that the practitioner was not necessarily permanently unfit to practice and that re-entry to the profession might occur where the practitioner can establish, on medical evidence, that the psychiatric condition has been, or is being, addressed in a way that makes repetition of the conduct unlikely”.

Such matters, the tribunal accepted, were relevant in determining sanctions.

“Because of the insight and remorse that The Lawyer has displayed, the fact that [their] conduct, which occurred three and a half years ago, is said to have been the result of a psychiatric condition in combination with alcohol and cannabis use and because that psychiatric condition is now being professionally treated and The Lawyer is abstaining from alcohol and cannabis, we conclude that a reprimand and an order precluding The Lawyer from being granted an Australian practising certificate for a period of nine months from the date of our orders will meet the objectives of disciplinary proceedings,” Glancy J and members Willey and Povey held.

As such, the tribunal resolved to find that The Lawyer had engaged in professional misconduct and issued a reprimand.

Glancy J and members Willey and Povey also ruled that The Lawyer is not to be granted a practising certificate for nine months from the date of orders and that The Lawyer pay the committee’s costs, fixed at $5,000.

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