- Unreported Judgment
SUPREME COURT OF QUEENSLAND
de JERSEY CJ
IN THE MATTER OF AN
APPLICATION FOR ADMISSION
AS LEGAL PRACTITIONER BY:
THE CHIEF JUSTICE: The focus of the Board's position in opposing this application for admission is the instances of offences of fraud committed against the Commonwealth in respect of the receipt of Centrelink benefits to which the applicant was not entitled.
There were some 44 submissions of forms, over a two and a half year period up to February 2004, in which the applicant understated the income she was receiving from situations of part-time employment. The amount of the defalcation was of the order of seven to $8,000 and that amount was in the end repaid by the applicant's parents to the Commonwealth, they having entered into an arrangement with her in relation to repayment.
The misleading of Centrelink involved serious deception, and a level of dishonestly which would ordinarily be considered glaringly inimical to the honesty integral to fitness to practise as a legal practitioner.
The explanation which is offered revolves about the personal circumstances of the applicant; an abusive relationship; alleged instances of rape within that relationship; termination of pregnancies, disastrous circumstances which had led to her voluntarily undergoing psychological and psychiatric treatment which is continuing.
The current position is usefully set out in the psychologist's report from which I read in the course of argument. That is a report from Dr Christianson of the 26th of February 2006. I will have to repeat that:
"Gillian is not currently suffering with a pervasive clinically significant psychological disorder. She does, however, experience periods of feeling overwhelmed by the raft of the implications arising from her offending behaviour. This distress manifests as acute anxiety, low mood and self-deprecatory thoughts. Fortunately, however, Gillian applies techniques acquired during counselling and is able to regain emotional equilibrium relatively quickly."
The psychologist's expectation is that the favourable resolution of the present application would do much to relieve her potential for distress; a potential which is highly relevant, of course, in the area in which she has been working, that is Family Law.
Her application today is supported by comprehensive affidavits from persons in the firm Hopgood and Gamin and a consultant to that firm, a former Judge of the Family Court of Australia. There is no doubt that constitutes strongly persuasive support for her present application.
The position taken by the Board is that the application should await the effluxation of the two year bond period imposed on the 8th of September 2006 following the applicant's pleas of guilty to the fraud offences. She was released upon entering into a recognizance in the sum of $2,000 on condition she be of good behaviour for a period of two years. That period of two years expires on the 8th of September 2008.
Mr Callaghan, senior counsel, for the applicant, refers to the statutory provisions under which that order was made and characterises it as nominal punishment. That may be so, but as he also rightly acknowledged, this Court now is embarking upon a rather different enquiry, that is the holding out of the applicant to the public as fit to practise as a legal practitioner.
In my opinion, notwithstanding the circumstances which surrounded her during the period of the offending, and notwithstanding the substantial support given her by her seniors within the firm, and the level of assurance which is afforded by the continuing psychiatric and psychological counselling and support, the problem in the end, from our point of view, does remain, and that is the inordinate difficulty of holding out, at this stage, as fit to practise as a lawyer, a person who, in comparatively recent years, has committed serious offences involving deception, for her own financial benefit, and in circumstances where it was only on the 8th of September last year that she was dealt with for that offending in the Magistrates Court.
It does seem to me that the application should be adjourned to a date to be fixed, not to be re-listed before the 8th of September 2008, and I can say in conclusion, that the reasons which in combination lead me to that position, are conveniently summarised in the reasons assigned by the Board in paragraph 11 of its outline dated the 16th of March, 2007.
MUIR J: I agree with the reasons of the Chief Justice and with the order he proposes. I consider the Board's approach to the application to be a sensible one, namely that final determination should await the expiration of the bond.
DOUGLAS J: I agree with the reasons of the Chief Justice and of Justice Muir.
THE CHIEF JUSTICE: Those are the orders made by the Court.
- Published Case Name:
Re An Application For Admission As Legal Practitioner By Gillian Shepherd
- Shortened Case Name:
 QCA 83
de Jersey CJ, Muir J, Douglas J
19 Mar 2007
No Litigation History