Fit and Proper

Posted on Mar 26, 2021 | 0 comments


The requirement for lawyers to be a fit and proper person has received same media coverage in recent weeks. This means that aspiring lawyers (or those who are already Attorney General) have to have the personal qualities necessary to discharge the duties associated with being admitted to practice. The caselaw says that this requires a commitment to honesty, candour and frankness.

In 2017, a 34 year old applicant disclosed to the QLD Admission Board that, some 10 years prior, he had pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful sodomy and to two counts of indecent treatment of a child under 16. In fact, the applicant (when he was 20) had worked as a male escort in both Sydney and Brisbane because he was “sexually curious and was eager to widen his sexual experience“.  His clients were always adult males.  He advertised for clients in newspapers. The charges arose from two consensual encounters with a high school student who had responded to the applicant’s advertisement. Remarkably (I thought), the magistrate didn’t record a conviction and imposed 240 hours of community work which was complied with.

The Board said the applicant wasn’t fit and proper. The QLD Court of Appeal (KMB v LPAB [2017] QCA 76) came to a different view. In part it relied on a forensic psychiatrist (who said he was negligible risk of reoffending and had a strong commitment to work, career and community activities). The Court also noted that: (a) it was 10 years since the offences; (b) the applicant hadn’t worked as a prostitute since he was charged; (c) he completed studies in music (at the QLD Conservatorium) and law (at QUT); and (d) had worked as a paralegal in a large Brisbane firm.

In short, the Court found that

[20] In our opinion the evidence shows that in the years since the offences were committed, the appellant has matured considerably.  He has changed from a confused young man to a mature adult who has demonstrated proficiency in his studies as a musician and as a budding lawyer……

[22]….. Rather, the commission of these offences should properly be regarded as aberrant behaviour on the part of an otherwise decent young man. Certainly, at the present date, 10 years after the relevant conduct, there is no basis upon which either the conduct which constituted the offences or the fact of his guilt of a criminal offence should affect a judgment that the appellant is a fit and proper person to be admitted to the legal profession.

Sounds like a pragmatic and fair outcome to me.

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

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