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- Notable Unreported Decision
 QCA 20
COURT OF APPEAL
Appeal No 592 of 2020
In the matter of an Application by LAR
for Admission to the legal profession Applicant
LEGAL PRACTITIONERS ADMISSIONS BOARD Respondent
MONDAY, 17 FEBRUARY 2020
- HOLMES CJ: The applicant seeks admission as a legal practitioner, having in 2018 discontinued an earlier application. Section 31 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 provides that a person is suitable for admission to the legal profession only if he or she is a fit and proper person to be admitted. In deciding that question, the Court is required to consider the suitability matters set out in section 9 of the Act, which include whether the person is currently of good fame and character.
- The matters which have required careful consideration by this Court are the same as those which aroused the Court’s concern in 2018, those arising principally out of a set of events occurring in 2012. The applicant, then a serving police officer, contested the making of a domestic violence protection order against him. One of the allegations, which was found proved, was a threat to kill his wife made at a counselling session. His wife also complained that he had withdrawn money from their account for gambling, which carries its own concerns, of course, in relation to a prospective legal practitioner. The magistrate hearing the matter did not accept the applicant’s evidence as truthful and made the protection order.
- Some months later, the applicant informed another police officer that he would kill the officers who had been involved in the application for the domestic violence protection order and the magistrate who had presided. This aspect of his conduct is particularly concerning, involving as it does an attack on the rule of law. Not surprisingly, in 2015, the applicant was dismissed from the Queensland Police Service, a decision upheld on appeal to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
- In 2018, the applicant made his first application, as I have mentioned, for admission to this Court. The Court at that time expressed its concern that the applicant did not appear to appreciate the significance of the seriousness of making a threat to the life of a judicial officer or the finding that he gave false evidence. There was also the question of his previous gambling, which the applicant himself describes as having been at a pathological level, and whether it was continuing, with the potential to put financial stress on him; a matter of concern, of course, for a practitioner may be dealing with a client’s funds. The applicant ultimately discontinued that application, he explains, on advice from his counsel that it would be wise to let some further time elapse in which he could demonstrate fitness. That was good advice.
- Having considered the material which the applicant has now filed, we have concluded that he is a fit and proper person for admission. The reasons for that conclusion are as follows. Firstly, it is of some importance that the misconduct in question occurred at a time when the applicant was in a position of considerable stress, going through a marriage breakdown and suffering from what a psychiatrist diagnosed as an adjustment disorder with depressed and anxious mood. There has been no evidence of similar misconduct since.
- In July 2018, the applicant’s treating psychiatrist was prepared to say he had seen no evidence of anger, serious alcohol use or pathological gambling. As to the last, the applicant has sworn to the effect that he now gambles, which is through the use of poker machines, rarely and in modest amounts. There is some objective support for that in that the applicant has provided bank statements which would indicate no untoward activity on his accounts.
- The Legal Practitioners Admissions Board has provided helpful and extensive submissions. Among other things, the board argues, in effect, that the applicant does not demonstrate a proper appreciation of his behaviour as being an assault on the rule of law or its implications for his reputation and possibly that of the legal profession, should he join it. However, the Court considers the sworn material the applicant has filed does indicate a proper grasp of the seriousness of his previous conduct and a commitment to not repeating it.
- That conclusion is supported by other respects in which the applicant has demonstrated an insight into what would be expected of him as a practitioner. The withdrawal of his previous application and his preparedness to postpone any future application for a period of a year and a half in order to demonstrate suitability, and his endeavours of that period, suggest a certain level of commitment. The applicant has volunteered with a community legal service for the past 18 months and has a favourable reference from the coordinator of that service. He is a Justice of the Peace and has volunteered at the Bundaberg Courthouse in that role.
- As to employment, he has worked in different occupations, including as a trainer with what appears to be a private college and has worked, presumably satisfactorily, as a residential care worker. He has undertaken various training courses in relation to gambling, anger management and alcohol use, which may be of assistance to him. He has also continued his academic developments, obtaining a graduate diploma of applied law in family law.
- Reprehensible though the applicant’s conduct was, it is now seven years in the past and though it has required a very serious examination of his suitability to be admitted at any time, the Court has concluded that it is not such as to permanently stamp him unfit to be a legal practitioner. Having regard to all the material as to what the applicant has undertaken since the time of his misconduct, the Court is satisfied that he is now a fit and proper person for admission to the legal profession. Let Mr LAR be admitted.
- Published Case Name:
- Shortened Case Name:
 QCA 20
Holmes CJ, McMurdo JA, Mullins JA
17 Feb 2020
- White Star Case: