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.
Generally, indictable offences in Queensland are dealt with by the District or Supreme Courts, as they are usually serious offences. However, in some cases, indictable offences can or must be dealt with in the Magistrates Court.
Section 1 of the Criminal Code 1899 (Qld) defines an “indictment” to mean a written charge preferred against an accused person in order to the person’s trial before some court other than justices exercising summary jurisdiction. A “summary conviction” is defined as summary conviction before a Magistrates Court.
Section 3 of the Criminal Code provides that offences are of 2 kinds, namely, criminal offences and regulatory offences. Criminal offences comprise crimes, misdemeanours and simple offences. Crimes and misdemeanours are indictable offences, which means that the offenders cannot, unless otherwise expressly stated, be prosecuted or convicted except upon indictment. A person guilty of a regulatory offence or a simple offence may be summarily convicted by a Magistrates Court.
Sections 1 and 3 of the Code make it clear that the indictable offences are to be dealt with in the District or Supreme Courts, unless the Code provides otherwise. In the District or Supreme Courts, a jury is normally the trier of fact in a criminal trial. In contrast, a trial in the Magistrates Court is a called a summary trial, and the presiding Magistrate is the sole trier of fact. A matter dealt with summarily is dealt with in the Magistrates Court.
Chapter 58A of the Criminal Code (containing sections 552A -552BB inclusive) provides for when indictable offences must or can be heard summarily.
Section 552A of the Criminal Code provides for a list of indictable offences which must be dealt with summarily on Prosecution election.
Section 552B of the Criminal Code provides for a list of indictable offences which must be dealt with summarily, unless the defendant elects for a jury trial.
Section 552BA of the Criminal Code provides for a list of indictable offences which must be dealt with summarily, unless they are excluded offences under section 552BB of the Code.
Sections 552A, 552B and 552BA of the Criminal Code are all subject to section 552D, which provides that the Magistrates Court must abstain from hearing and determining a charge and must instead conduct a committal proceeding if it is an offence listed at Schedule 1C of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, the Court is of the view that the defendant may not be adequately punished on summary conviction after considering submissions or if exceptional circumstances exist.
Section 552H of the Criminal Code provides that the maximum period of imprisonment under section 552A , 552B or 552BA is three years, unless the court is constituted by a magistrate imposing a drug and alcohol treatment order, in which case the maximum penalty is four years imprisonment.
The list of indictable offences that must be dealt with summarily on Prosecution election is contained at section 552A(1) of the Criminal Code.
The offences listed include the commission, counselling or procuring, attempt or becoming an accessory after the fact of any of the following offences under the Criminal Code:
Section 141: Aiding persons to escape from lawful custody.
Section 142: Escaping from lawful custody.
Section 143: a person responsible for keeping someone in from lawful custody permitting escape from lawful custody.
Section 205A: Contravening order about information necessary to access information stored electronically.
Section 340: assaults committed with intent to commit a crime, or as part of an unlawful conspiracy in relation to any manufacture, trade, business, or occupation or committed against a police officer, a person performing a legal duty, a person aged over 60, or a person who relies on a guide, hearing or assistance dog, wheelchair or other remedial device.
The indictable offences that must be dealt with summarily unless the defence elects for a jury trial are listed at Section 552B(1) of the Code.
The offences listed include the commission, counselling or procuring, attempt or becoming an accessory after the fact of any of the following offences under the Criminal Code:
A sexual offence without a circumstance of aggravation for which the defendant has pleaded guilty, the complainant is at least 14 years of age and the maximum sentence is more than three years.
Section 339: assault occasioning bodily harm which is not committed in company, without the use of a dangerous or offensive weapon or instrument and not during the term of a community service order.
An offence involving an assault without a circumstance of aggravation and which is not of a sexual nature, and for which the maximum penalty is more than 3 years but not more than 7 years.
Section 60A: Participants in criminal organisation being knowingly present in public places.
Section 60B: Participants in criminal organisation entering prescribed places and attending prescribed events.
Section 76: Recruiting a person to become participant in criminal organisation.
Section 77B: Habitually consorting with recognised offenders.
Section 328A: Dangerous operation of a vehicle (with a circumstance of aggravation at Section 328A(2)).
359E Punishment of unlawful stalking if the maximum term of imprisonment for which the defendant is liable is not more than 5 years.
An offence against chapter 14 (Corrupt and improper practices at elections), division 2 (Legislative Assembly elections and referendums), if the maximum term of imprisonment for which the defendant is liable is more than 3 years.
An offence against chapter 22A (Prostitution), if the maximum term of imprisonment for which the defendant is liable is more than 3 years.
An offence against chapter 42A (Secret Commissions).
Section 552BA(4) of the Code provides that ‘relevant offences’ must be heard and dealt with summarily.
Relevant offences are defined as indictable offences which either:
The list of excluded offences contained in the table of Section 552BB includes the following offences:
The list of excluded offences contained in the table of Section 552BB also includes the following indictable offences if committed in the following circumstances:
Section 398: stealing – if:
the amount stolen, yield or detriment is equal or more than $30,000, and the offender does not plead guilty; or
the thing stolen was a firearm for use in another indictable offence.
Section 399: fraudulent concealment of documents – if the offence is not committed in relation to a document recording title to property, or the yield or detriment is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 403: Severing with intent to steal – if the amount in question is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 406: Bringing stolen goods into Queensland – if the amount in question is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 408A: Unlawful use or possession of motor vehicles, aircraft or vessels – if the value of the motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty, or if the offender is liable for at least 10 years imprisonment (ie if they used the vehicle for the commission of an indictable offence or intended to or did wilfully destroy, damage, remove or otherwise interfere with the mechanism (or part thereof) or other part of or equipment attached to the motor vehicle, aircraft or vessel).
Section 408C: Fraud – if the amount in question is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 408E Computer hacking and misuse – If the offender causes a detriment or damage or obtains a benefit for any person to the value of more than $5,000, or intends to commit an indictable offence, and the offender does not plead guilty.
Chapter 38 Stealing with violence or extortion by threats – excluding sections 413 (Assault with intent to steal) and 414 (Demanding property with menaces with intent to steal).
Section 419 Burglary – if:
the offender uses or threatens to use actual violence;
the offender is or pretends to be armed;
the offender damages or threatens to damage any property by at least $30,000 in value and the offender does not plead guilty; or
the offender then commits an indictable offence in the dwelling.
the offender commits an indictable offence in the premises which must proceed on indictment; or
the offender enters by means of a break and the value of damage caused by the break is of at least $30,000.
Section 427 Unlawful entry of vehicle for committing indictable offence – if the offence is committed in the night or the offender uses or threatens violence, pretends to be armed, is in company or damages or threatens to damage any property.
Section 430 Fraudulent falsification of records – if the amount in question is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 433 Receiving tainted property – if the amount in question is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 435 Taking reward for recovery of property obtained by way of indictable offences – if the amount in question is equal or more than $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Chapter 44 Offences analogous to stealing related to animals – if the value of the animals is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 468 Injuring animals– If the animal in question is stock, the value of the animals is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 469 Wilful damage – if any of the following apply:
property is damaged or destroyed by explosion;
the property in question is—(i) a bank or wall of the sea or inland water; or(ii) a work relating to a port or inland water; or
if the property in question is any part of a railway, or any work connected with a railway
If the property in question is an aircraft or anything whatever either directly or indirectly connected with the guidance control or operation of an aircraft
If the property in question is a vessel, a light, beacon, buoy, mark or signal used for navigation or for the guidance of sailors, a bank, work or wall of the sea or inland water
If the property in question is a manufacturing or agricultural machine or another thing used, or intended for use, for manufacture or for performing a process connected with the preparation of agricultural produce and is destroyed or rendered useless
If the property in question is a well or bore for water or the dam, bank, wall, or floodgate of a millpond or pool.
Section 471 Damaging mines – if the value of the damage is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 472 Interfering with marine signals – if the value of any damage or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 473 Interfering with navigation works – if the value of any damage or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 474 Communicating infectious diseases to animals – if the value of any damage or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 488 Forgery and uttering – if the document is a valuable security, insurance policy, testamentary instrument (whether the testator is living or dead) or registration document or is evidence of an interest in land, or a power of attorney, contract or document kept or issued by lawful authority OR the value of any yield or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
Section 498 Falsifying warrants for money payable under public authority – if the value of any yield or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
514 Personation in general – If the representation is that the offender is a person entitled by will or operation of law to any specific property, and the person commits the offence with intent to obtain such property or possession thereof or the value of any yield or detriment is at least $30,000 and the offender does not plead guilty.
There a number of indictable offences in Queensland that can or must be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court. Generally speaking, an indictable offence must be dealt with summarily if it carries a maximum sentence of three years or less, or it is an offence under part 6 of the Code (excluding Chapter 42A) for which the monetary value is less than $30,000 or the offender pleads guilty, and the offender is liable for a maximum period of imprisonment which is less than 14 years imprisonment.
When considering whether an indictable offence could or should must be dealt with summarily, one should consider the following:
As the Magistrates Court deals with offences more quickly and can normally only sentence an offender for up to three years imprisonment, there are potential advantages for a defendant in having a matter dealt with summarily. However, such a course is subject to section 552D, which requires the Magistrate to abstain from exercising its jurisdiction if the offender may not be adequately sentenced or if there are exceptional circumstances.
It is a criminal offence for a Defendant in criminal proceedings to fail to appear in court unless they have a reasonable excuse to do so. A recent case which resulted in an acquittal of such a charge sheds light on the meaning of reasonable excuse for the purposes of s33 of the Bail Act 1980 (Qld).