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Nicola Gobbo aka Lawyer X removed from the roll of lawyers

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THE FACTS

Former Victorian criminal barrister Nicola Gobbo represented a number of high-profile clients during her career at the bar. It was later discovered that she had also been acting as a police informant, and was using confidential information obtained from her clients to assist police in obtaining evidence. This revelation sparked a royal commission in Victoria, and Gobbo’s evidence at the royal commission suggested her motivation for this extraordinary course of conduct was to feel valued.

Gobbo has not held a practising certificate since 2014.

Some of Gobbo’s clients have subsequently applied to set aside their own convictions given that Gobbo had informed on them.

Recently, proceedings were commenced in the Victorian Supreme Court to remove Gobbo from the roll of practitioners.

Lawyers Weekly now reports that Nicola Gobbo has been removed from the roll of practitioners due to her role as a police informant against her own clients.

BARRISTERS’ CONDUCT RULES

The Barristers’ Conduct Rules relevantly provides as follows:

12. A barrister must not engage in conduct which is:

(a) dishonest or otherwise discreditable to a barrister;

(b) prejudicial to the administration of justice; or

(c) likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or the administration of justice or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute.

13.A barrister must not engage in another vocation which:

(a) is liable to adversely affect the reputation of the legal profession or the barrister’s own reputation;

(b) is likely to impair or conflict with the barrister’s duties to clients; or

(c) prejudices a barrister’s ability to attend properly to the interests of the barrister’s clients.

108. A barrister must not disclose (except as compelled by law) or use in any way confidential information obtained by the barrister in the course of practice concerning any person to whom the barrister owes some duty or obligation to keep such information confidential unless or until: (a) the information is later obtained by the barrister from another person who is not bound by the confidentiality owed by the barrister to the first person and who does not give the information confidentially to the barrister; or (b) the person has consented to the barrister disclosing or using the information generally or on specific terms; or (c) the barrister discloses the information in a confidential setting, for the sole purpose of obtaining advice in connection with the barrister’s legal or ethical obligations.

Removal from the roll

In Ziems v The Prothonotary of The Supreme Court of N.S.W. (1957) 97 CLR 279, Kitto observed that:

“The issue is whether the appellant is shown not to be a fit and proper person to be a member of the Bar of New South Wales. It is not capable of more precise statement. The answer must depend upon one’s conception of the minimum standards demanded by a due recognition of the peculiar position and functions of a barrister in a system which treats the Bar as in fact, whether or not it is also in law, a separate and distinct branch of the legal profession. It has been said before, and in this case the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has said again, that the Bar is no ordinary profession or occupation. These are not empty words, nor is it their purpose to express or encourage professional pretensions. They should be understood as a reminder that a barrister is more than his client’s confidant, adviser and advocate, and must therefore possess more than honesty, learning and forensic ability. He is, by virtue of a long tradition, in a relationship of intimate collaboration with the judges, as well as with his fellow-members of the Bar, in the high task of endeavouring to make successful the service of the law to the community. That is a delicate relationship, and it carries exceptional privileges and exceptional obligations. If a barrister is found to be, for any reason, an unsuitable person to share in the enjoyment of those privileges and in the effective discharge of those responsibilities, he is not a fit and proper person to remain at the Bar.”

The test is whether it is probable that a legal practitioner is permanently unfit to remain a lawyer. Conduct of a serious nature can demonstrate that this the case. As Daubney J noted in Legal Services Commissioner v Meehan [2019] QCAT 17:

“It is the view of this Tribunal that the nature and extent of the respondent’s dishonest wrongdoing in the course of his professional practice, and his convictions for the criminal offences arising from that conduct, are such as to provide “instant demonstration of unfitness”. They bespeak a character tainted by dishonesty.”

Breaching client confidentiality has been held to amount to professional misconduct in Queensland. The practitioner in that case was removed from the roll for disclosing the confidential information on national television.

SUPREME COURT DECISION

In orders made without reasons yesterday, the Supreme Court of Victoria’s Justice Jacinta Forbes QC has removed Ms Gobbo from the roll of persons admitted to the legal profession kept by the court. This decision was made with Gobbo’s consent.

This means she will never practice as a lawyer again.

CONCLUSION

It is hard to think of a more serious breach of a lawyer’s duties to their client than informing on them to the police. Nicola Gobbo committed this gross breach of trust on numerous occasions over a course of years. The result was legal pandemonium in Victoria that will take years to be resolved. Public confidence in the administration of justice in Victoria is also likely to have been impacted. For all of these reasons, a striking off order is a logical outcome.

James Loel stays on the roll after QCAT disciplinary decision

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Queensland solicitor James Loel has avoided a strike-off order after it was found that he had engaged in professional misconduct on five occasions, and engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct eight times.

The rehabilitation he had undertaken since the offending conduct and his acceptance of the conduct were significant factors which weighed in his favour.

The full decision can be accessed here: http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/qld/QCAT/2020/326.html

BRISBANE LAWYERS

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WHY US?
  • We have the skills and experience to understand your legal problem and explain your options to you

  • We avoid use of legal jargon wherever possible and explain the issues in a straightforward way so that you can easily understand our advice

  • We put your interests first and strive to get the best outcome for you

  • We are friendly, flexible, approachable and accessible

  • We have a low cost structure, which means that we can provide high quality and affordable legal services.

CONTACT US

Sterling Law can be contacted by phone on 07 3667 8213, or by email: office@sterlinglawqld.com

When the Solicitor-Barrister relationship turns sour

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barrister

The distinction between solicitors and barristers is a traditional feature of English legal systems, including Australia’s. The main difference between the two today is that barristers specialise in court advocacy and are normally instructed by solicitors, who deal with clients directly, operate trust accounts and also do non-court work such as writing correspondence, conveyancing, preparing legal documents and handling estates.
Continue reading “When the Solicitor-Barrister relationship turns sour”

Sterling Law unfazed by Coronavirus

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Corona Bottles

Despite the Coronavirus wreaking havoc, we are pleased to inform you that it is still business as usual for us. Our office remains open Monday-Friday each week, but we are willing to see people via Skype or some other form of videoconferencing if preferred. While some other law firms are afraid or panic, we remain optimistic, and aim to minimise the impact of the current worldwide pandemic on our ability to help you. Continue reading “Sterling Law unfazed by Coronavirus”

The law of lawyers bills in Queensland

Posted on Categories civil litigation, Legal profession, litigation, Professional fees Tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 3 Comments on The law of lawyers bills in Queensland

resource

Introduction

For a very long time in Commonwealth legal systems, the legal profession has been regulated for the benefit of clients of lawyers and the public at large. Among other things, there has been a recognised public interest in protecting those liable to pay legal fees from overcharging by lawyers. One of those protections is and has been the legal requirement for a bill to be provided so that the client can seek advice on the fees and charges.

As a result, one of the many modern obligations that lawyers in English legal systems have to comply with in the course of legal practice is to provide clients and any other persons liable for their fees with proper bills before such persons can be liable for or sued for such fees. Continue reading “The law of lawyers bills in Queensland”

Why Nicola Gobbo informed against her own clients

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Gobbo

This blog has previously reported on former barrister Nicola Gobbo  aka “Lawyer X”, who was also a police informant, often informing on her own clients and helping the police secure convictions against them.

During the Royal Commission centred around her antics, the topic moved to her motives.

Why did she do it?

Why did she betray her own clients, many of whom are extremely dangerous, egregiously breach legal ethics and throw the legal profession in Victoria into disrepute? Continue reading “Why Nicola Gobbo informed against her own clients”

Sterling Law sets leading precedent on itemised bills

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With its latest big win, Sterling Law is establishing its place as an elite Queensland litigation firm, and a force to be reckoned with.

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The facts

When Joanne Murdock deliberately remained uncontactable to her solicitors for an extended period of time, she received a bill from them for all the work they had done for her.

The bill set out the charges item by item, particularising the date, the time spent and the person who performed the work, but for most items only provided very concise descriptions of the work performed. Examples later complained of included “attendance with you”, and “telephone attendance with you”. Continue reading “Sterling Law sets leading precedent on itemised bills”

Former Magistrate Bill Randall struck off for child sex abuse

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William ‘Uncle Bill’ Randall has been struck off as a lawyer following his convictions for numerous child sex offences.

Bill Randall4
The facts

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. Continue reading “Former Magistrate Bill Randall struck off for child sex abuse”

Why do you need a lawyer?

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barrister

Why do you need a lawyer? On some level this is a basic and obvious question, but there is a lot more to the answer than first meets the eye. Although it seems like a pretty obvious question, there are in fact a number of advantages of having a lawyer. Continue reading “Why do you need a lawyer?”

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