William ‘Uncle Bill’ Randall has been struck off as a lawyer following his convictions for numerous child sex offences.
William John Randall was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland on 9 June 1981. He never practised as a solicitor, and never held a practising certificate. He was however appointed a Magistrate in 1985 and served for a long time in the small claims tribunal until his retirement in 2016.
On 21 November 2017 he was convicted by a jury of a range of serious sexual offences committed against a child. The child was just five when the abuse started in 1990 at Randall’s home at Wynnum, on Brisbane’s bayside. It continued for almost 12 years, and the victim was 30 before he finally gathered the courage to tell police. Randall was initially sentenced to 9 years imprisonment but on appeal this was increased to 11 years imprisonment. He continued to deny his offending throughout and never showed any remorse.
Section 419 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 (Qld) states as follows:
(1) Professional misconduct includes –
(a) unsatisfactory professional conduct of an Australian legal practitioner, if the conduct involves a substantial or consistent failure to reach or keep a reasonable standard of competence and diligence; and
(b) conduct of an Australian legal practitioner, whether happening in connection with the practice of law or happening otherwise than in connection with the practice of law that would, if established, justify a finding that the practitioner if not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practices.
Section 452 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 states as follows:
Starting proceeding before a disciplinary body
(1) The commissioner may apply—
(a) to the tribunal for an order against an Australian legal practitioner in relation to a complaint against the legal practitioner or an investigation matter.
Section 453 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 states as follows:
The disciplinary body must hear and decide each allegation stated in the discipline application.
Section 456 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 relevantly provides as follows:
“456 Decisions of tribunal about an Australian legal practitioner
(1) If, after the tribunal has completed a hearing of a discipline application in relation to a complaint or an investigation matter against an Australian legal practitioner, the tribunal is satisfied that the practitioner has engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct, the tribunal may make any order as it thinks fit, including any 1 or more of the orders stated in this section.
(2) The tribunal may, under this subsection, make 1 or more of the following in a way it considers appropriate—
(a) an order recommending that the name of the Australian legal practitioner be removed from the local roll;
(b) an order that the practitioner’s local practising certificate be suspended for a stated period or cancelled;
(c) an order that a local practising certificate not be granted to the practitioner before the end of a stated period.”
In Legal Services Commissioner v Quinn  QLPT 19, the solicitor had pleaded guilty to and been convicted of one count of importing child pornography, one count of possessing child abuse computer games, and one count possessing child abuse photographs. The offending was detected after Quinn attempted to re-enter Australia while carrying Category 1 magazines and compact discs he purchased in Japan. At the hearing of the discipline application, Fryberg J found him guilty of professional misconduct and recommended that his name be removed from the local roll without giving any reasons.
In considering whether Randall should be removed from the roll of legal practitioners in Queensland, the Tribunal held that:
“Whilst this offending did not occur in connection with the practice of law, regard must be had to s 419(1)(b) and s 419(2) of the LPA. By s 9(1)(d) of the LPA, “suitability matter” relevantly includes whether a person has been convicted of an offence, and if so the nature of the offence, how long ago the offence was committed, and the person’s age when the offence was committed.
“The conduct for which the respondent was convicted was heinous and repugnant to the moral sensibilities of all right-thinking members of the community. It was conduct which, of itself, amply supports a finding that the respondent is not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practice.
“There will accordingly be a finding that the respondent engaged in professional misconduct.
“The nature, and extent, of the conduct is also such as to inform the order which ought be made as a consequence of that finding. It was conduct which is incompatible with the personal qualities essential for practice as a legal practitioner. By engaging in this conduct, the respondent effectively forfeited the privilege of ongoing membership of an honourable profession.
“Noting again that this course of action is consented to by the respondent, the Tribunal considers it appropriate in the present case to recommend that the respondent’s name be removed from the roll of practitioners.”
The result was that Randall was struck off.
The case of William John Randall concerns a spectacular fall from grace as a result of his sinister double life that finally caught up with him. He went from a Magistrate who stood in judgment of others to someone who found himself in the dock, followed by prison.
This case also is also an application of the long-established principle that a lawyer can get struck off for conduct unrelated to legal practice, particularly if the conduct is of a serious criminal nature.
Randall’s convictions made it unnecessary to prove the conduct the subject of his crimes, as proof of his convictions was sufficient to prove the criminal conduct. The serious nature of his crimes, the fact they occurred over a long period of time, the breach of trust they involved and his lack of remorse necessitated a conclusion that he should be struck off.
Catherine Holmes, the Chief Justice of Queensland has a piece in The Australian concerning some of the unfair and ill-informed criticisms of sentencing decisions in recent years:
Importantly, she does not say that decisions should not be criticised. However, given that judges are not supposed to respond to criticisms or defend their own decisions, personal attacks against judges and criticisms of decisions which do not show the reasons for the decisions undermine confidence in the Courts, and can threaten judicial independence:
“I am concerned about tendencies in media and political discourse to speak about courts and their decisions in ways which can, directly or indirectly, undermine judicial independence.
This may sound a little precious, so I had better start by emphasising that I am not suggesting that anyone should desist from criticising judicial decisions. Discussion and criticism are to be expected in a healthy democracy.
My plea is for better informed criticism, because public confidence is essential to the preservation of what I contend is a very good legal system; and for better targeted criticism, because there seems to be an increasing, damaging willingness to attack that system as a whole on the strength of dissatisfaction with a very small number of decisions.”
The article may be behind a paywall, so a subscription may be required.
Litigation is very tough on litigants. They find themselves in an environment where in spite of their strong feelings about their case, their emotions carry no weight and are seldom acknowledged by the court. Furthermore, their fate at trial is the hands of a third party who may rule against them, with disastrous consequences. Adverse findings can be made against them. There is an incredible amount of stress associated with such risks. And of course, there is the massive amount of money they have to pay towards their own legal costs.
In return, the least litigants are entitled to expect is a judge who properly hears their case and considers it in a fair minded way.
Unfortunately, this is not what has been happening for many cases before Judge Sandy Street:
“A federal judge who has had at least 61 judgments overturned on appeal since his appointment 3½ years ago has been found in recent cases to have repeatedly failed to fulfil the basic judicial task of properly trying cases and giving adequate reasons for his decisions.
In a scathing appeal judgment two weeks ago, Federal Circuit Court judge Sandy Street was found to have “manifestly failed to give adequate reasons, and in places reached conclusions that were plainly wrong”, when he threw out a claim brought by a teacher who had been denied a termination payment promised by the Sydney Catholic school system.
Judge Street — whose father, Sir Laurence, grandfather and great grandfather were all former NSW chief justices — had delivered his decision “ex tempore”, or on the spot, without retiring from the bench for consideration.
Many of his judgments have been delivered ex tempore, helping him to dispose of about 1370 cases in a 26-month period, while the other eight Sydney general federal law judges combined disposed of just 2290 cases.
“When ex tempore judgments are used inadequately or inappropriately, the quality of justice delivered may fall below acceptable standards, perceived efficiency may be illusory … costs may be greatly increased (especially due to an appeal) and the final resolution of a dispute may be delayed, rather than accelerated,” he said.”
Whilst the Federal Circuit Court does have an incredible workload given the number of family law matters and the variety of other federal matters which come before it, it is important for the interests of justice that litigants are afforded a fair hearing and have their cases considered in a fair and balanced manner.
Interestingly, when he was at the bar Judge Street called for a fairer process with respect to the appointment of barristers to silk. The Federal Court clearly wishes for fairer processes in Judge Street’s courtroom.
On 4 November 2016, Judge Jarrett of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia dismissed a claim brought by Cindy Prior under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) as a result of posts published on Facebook by students at the Queensland University of Technology that complained of being kicked out of an ‘Indigenous only’ computer lab. This ends a 3 year long legal saga and ordeal for the students concerned.
Continue reading “Identity politics, political correctness and section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act”
Witnesses are usually assessed according to their credibility and reliability.
In cases where there are disputes of fact, the performance of the relevant witnesses will be critical, as the case is likely to be determined according to which witnesses are believed and which are not.
This article discusses dome of the do’s and don’ts involved in giving evidence at a hearing.
Continue reading “How to be an impressive witness in court”
To: The Human Rights Working Group
Queensland Law Society
RE CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS ON A BILL OF RIGHTS
We refer to the invitations for submissions concerning a Bill of Rights in Australia in the February 2016 edition of Proctor.
We write to voice our opposition to a Bill of Rights, for the reasons below.
Continue reading “Response to invitations for submissions concerning a Bill of Rights in Australia”