Here’s an issue that doesn’t have to be grappled with very often: to what extent can a solicitor lawfully obstruct a police investigation?

This issue arose in the context that a solicitor who acted for various members of the Rebels Motorcycle club, became aware (lawfully apparently) that his clients’ premises was about to be the subject of a police raid the following morning. The solicitor called two of his clients forewarning them and advising that they should get rid of any utensils used for smoking unlawful drugs and cash (if any) that were on the premises. This resulted in professional disciplinary proceedings (see LSC (Qld) v Winning [2008] LPT 13).

Obviously enough, lawyers must foster respect for the law and are important participants in the administration of justice. In R v (Roger) Rogerson (the  1991 case about the conspiracy to pervert the course of justice – not the murder), the High Court found that the administration of justice included the exercise of jurisdiction by courts and tribunals and did not include a police investigation. There were no pending charges or proceedings.

As a result, because there was no evidence that the tip off was illegally obtained or that the solicitor had actual knowledge of drug utensils on the premises (although he must have suspected), his conduct did not fall short of the expected standard of professional conduct.

The solicitor did receive a public reprimand in relation to other allegations that he had used f*cking offensive/insulting language to various staff of the Crime Commission and DPP.

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

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