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Sir Terence O'Rort
19 July, 2007  
Rumples Russo - TV star and fashion disaster

Sir Terence O’Rort examines Stephen Keim SC’s release of Dr Mohamed Haneef’s police record of interview. Unfortunately, the new Queensland barristers rules take a mean-spirited view of Keim’s noble freedom of information gesture

imageDon’t you feel sorry for poor old Dr Mohamed Haneef? Not because he has been rotting in the Brisbane watchhouse for three weeks but rather because of the bad draw that he got on the duty solicitor roster.

The good doctor was lucky enough to draw one of Brisvegas’s worst-dressed lawyers, Peter “Rumples” Russo. On his best days Rumples looks like an unmade bed and on his worst days he appears bewildered.

Being an Indian doctor in the Queensland justice system is not a good career move at the moment, let alone being related to other Indian doctors.

Enter Stephen Keim, SC, with the brilliant idea to leak the record of interview to a noted expert on unhygienic Indian doctors, journalist Hedley Thomas, now residing at The Australian newspaper. When the smoke cleared it emerged that this dangerous terrorist had been committing such heinous acts as giving his phone credit to his cousin before he left the UK.

Rumples Russo was interviewed on the morning the police record of interview appeared in the press and didn’t seem to know much about the leak.

Keim outed himself as the source later that day and launched a broadside on AFP Commissioner Mick Kelpie, the government and the prosecution for their unpleasant suggestion that he had done something unethical by becoming Hedley Thomas’s snitch. Nothing could be further from the truth, said Keim.

On The 7.30 Report and Lateline the barrister provided lengthy explanations for his decision to release the material, saying that he had to do it to better inform the public about the real facts of the Haneef case. Keim said he was motivated by the sustained and selective leaking by the prosecution.

Importantly, he told Tony Jones on Lateline last night that he had not sought Dr Haneef’s instructions before releasing the interview. In any event, he thought the record of interview would become public at the committal proceedings.

According to “Fabulous” Phil Ruddock, what Keim did was “inappropriate and unethical”. Now the AFP and the DPP are considering what dastardly acts they can do to Keim.

As always in Queensland when in doubt look to Bjelke-Beattie, who has the answer for everything.

The 2007 Barristers Rules commenced operation on July 1 this year, and are part of Bjelke-Beattie’s brilliant legal reform package (see earlier report touching on the rules).

Rules 109-110 state:

109. A barrister must not disclose (except as compelled by law) or use in any way in the course of practice confidential information obtained by the barrister concerning any person to whom the barrister owes some duty or obligation to keep such information confidential unless or until:

(a) the information has been published;
(b) 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
(c) the person has consented to the barrister disclosing or using the information generally or on specific terms.

110. A barrister must not disclose (except as compelled by law) or use confidential information under Rule 109(c ) in any way other than as permitted by the specific terms of the person’s consent.

If that’s not enough, Rule 60 might provide food for thought:

60. (a) A barrister must not publish or assist the publishing of material concerning a current proceeding except by supplying only:

(i) copies of pleadings or court documents in their current form, which have been filed and which have been served in accordance with the court’s requirements;
(ii) copies of affidavits or witness statements, which have been read, tendered or verified in open court, clearly marked so as to show any parts which have not been read, tendered or verified or which have been disallowed on objection;
(iii) copies of transcript of evidence given in open court, if permitted by copyright and clearly marked so as to show any corrections agreed by the other parties or directed by the court;
(iv) copies of exhibits admitted in open court and without restriction on access;
(v) answers to unsolicited questions concerning the current proceedings and the answers are limited to information as to the identity of the parties or of any witness already called, the nature of the issues in the case, the nature of the orders made or judgment given including any reasons given by the court and the client’s intentions as to any further steps in the case;
(vi) copies of submissions used in open court and available to the parties, provided that where the barrister is engaged in the current proceedings, the barrister does so only with the consent of the client first obtained …

(b) Subject to sub rule (a), a barrister must not publish or take any step towards the publication of any material concerning any current or potential proceeding which:

(i) is inaccurate;
(ii) discloses any confidential information;
(iii) appears to express or does express the opinion of the barrister on the merits of the current or potential proceeding or on any issue arising in the proceeding, other than in the course of genuine educational or academic discussion on matters of law.”

Maybe Fabbo will get his goons to have a chat to the new head of the Queensland Bureau de Spank, John Britton, who now has jurisdiction over barristers. Britton and the LSC plod, suddenly awakened at the wheel, will be smacking their chops at the thought of trooping off to Keim’s chambers for another show trial.

The Queensland Council of Civil Liberties has come out this morning (July 19) applauding Keim for informing the public about the facts of the case and giving Fabulous a serve for his “disgraceful attack” on the noble barrister.

“The fact that Mr Ruddock has to tell lies about Mr Keim shows that Mr Keim is doing a good job for his clients and the public’s right to know. Mr Keim should wear Mr Ruddock’s attack on him like a badge of honour. Who would want to be praised by an attorney general with Mr Ruddock’s track record?”

But all of this obscures the real crime, which is a serious fashion offence committed by Rumples every time he stumbles blearily into the glare of the TV cameras.

For God’s sake can’t Fabulous Phil take mercy on the viewing public and make an ex gratia payment to the man’s tailor?

Sir Terence O’Rort reporting