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Hellfire Club
31 December, 2007  
Speedy exit

Young Melbourne barrister struck off the roll a year after signing it … failure to come clean over essay collaboration with fellow student

imageFresh faced Melbourne barrister Ozan Girgin (pic) has been struck off the jam roll just a year after signing it.

The Vic Full Court found he had hadn’t made full and frank disclosure of the circumstances in which he failed a university subject in 2005.

The sorry story of two friends and their doomed bid to become lawyers is canvassed by the court in its judgment of December 14.

In mid-2005 Girgin and a friend, GL, were hauled before their university lecturer to discuss the similarities in an assignment they had written for an undergrad marketing subject in a combined Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Laws.

The pair, who seemed to be quite close, were told they were suspected of colluding and were given a zero mark in the subject.

Both denied collusion and attributed the similarities to the fact they used the plan and headings suggested by the tutor and that the assignment was based on earlier work by a group, which included Girgin.

They said the similarities in wording were a coincidence and that there were not many different ways that one could express the same thing.

When both were nearing the end of their practical legal training and applying to the Board of Examiners to be admitted GL sent a letter disclosing the incident. The board requires such disclosure for its “fit and proper person” test.

GLs letter did not mention Girgin’s name.

Hearing of GL’s letter, Girgin then wrote his own “disclosure” letter to the board a few days later. He said that the zero mark was a result of him misunderstanding the subject requirements and writing an assignment individually instead of with the group. He insisted: “at no time was it suggested to be plagiarism”.

The board thought the matter trivial and admitted him in October 2006.

However GL’s disclosure sparked a series of hearings by the Board of Examiners, which saw a web of half-baked admissions and changing accounts by both budding lawyers.

In GL’s hearing, the assignments were eventually produced to the board. He was eventually forced to reveal the identity of his friend, and the examiners then ordered a review of Girgin’s case.

In the hearings, GL steadfastly maintained there had been no collusion between him and Girgin on the assignment, but the board doubted his candour and denied his application to practice.

In his evidence Girgin accused his friend of being the plagiarist, even though he had made no mention of it in his original affidavit.

imageThe full court thought Girgin’s version of events “taxes credulity beyond belief”.

The court (Warren – pic, Nettle and Mandie) compared the two assignments and thought there was collusion, although they weren’t able to say with confidence if either of them was more to blame than the other.

Peter O’Callaghan, for Girgin, argued that whatever the finding of the court as to his client’s disclosure before admission, he had since performed satisfactorily at the bar and the court should in the exercise of its discretion desist from striking the lad from the roll.

The judges were unmoved, saying that the young Turk had lied about why he received the zero mark.

“Candour does not permit of deliberate or reckless misrepresentation pretending to be disclosure,” they wrote as they struck him off.

Even so, the court’s own candour left a bit to be desired. Throughout the judgment the barrister was protectively referred to as “OG”.