Should a lawyer be struck off the roll of legal practitioners for misappropriation of funds? Which case won?
In November 2010, a lawyer was hired to complete the sale of a vendor’s property near Campbelltown, NSW.
On the day before settlement, the lawyer faxed a letter to the property buyer’s lawyer directing how the cheques were to be drawn on settlement. This included a direction that a cheque for $12,000 be made out to Permanent Custodians Limited (PCL), the lawyer’s own mortgage lender. PCL had no connection to the client’s transaction.
At settlement, the cheques were handed over to the lawyer. The $12,000 cheque was then banked by PCL, leaving the vendor $12,000 short on the sale proceeds.
The vendor complained to the Legal Services Commissioner who maintains the standards within the legal profession.
The Legal Services Commissioner commenced disciplinary proceedings against the lawyer in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (now known as the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, or NCAT).
The Commissioner asserted that the lawyer’s behaviour amounted to professional misconduct and that his name should be removed from the roll of legal practitioners.