Punishment tempered with mercy is the credo of Queensland’s CJ, Daphnis de Jersey.
This mission statement was clearly to the fore when Daphnis and two other members of the Legal Practice Tribunal dealt with a rather agitated and strung out solicitor, Kenneth Peter Turley.
Poor Ken is 66-years old and has never before been in trouble with the stipes.
He was acting for a mother in child protection proceedings before the Magistrates Court at Gladstone (why is no one surprised by that?), brought by the Department of Child Safety.
The department had the temerity to serve an affidavit on Turley’s client, prompting the solicitor to tell the magistrate that this was …
“the lowest act of any department that this office has seen. Certainly the lowest act I have seen in 35 years by the department.”
Turls also has some pretty beastly things to say about departmental staff. He told the court:
“One has only to go through what the department has said and what appears in newspapers to see that one cannot trust the department. It is almost staffed by animals.”
When the presiding magistrate ordered that the children undergo psychological treatment this was really the last straw for Ken.
He objected on the basis that the psychologist was going to murder the kiddies during the treatment:
“I put it that you are asking the client, my client, to let her children be killed or destroyed by Dr Keane … The children should be returned to my client and not put in the hands of these people who are almost like a (coven) of witches.”
Well, solicitors have to do the best they can for clients.
In response to Turley’s submissions the magistrate, (whom some might think a little over-sensitive) said:
“If you continue using language like that I will report you to the Law Society.”
Ouch. It’s doesn’t come much more scary than that. But Turls was not to be deterred.
After pondering the matter he decided that the magistrate needed a cuff over the ear, and he said so in a letter. What the missive lacked in finesse it made up with biffo:
“We are concerned with threats made by yourself during the conduct of the interim hearing on 2 January 2007. Our view is that your threats constitute a threat with menaces not only arising in this case but in other matters into the future. We note that you threaten in reference to the Legal Services Commission and in its context that reference to the Legal Services Commission was of a disadvantage. We feel that such was the degree of impropriety of that threat that you should disqualify yourself from further conduct of this matter.”
The Legal Services Commissioner characterised this document as “an improper ex parte communication with the bench”.
Turls was charged with making scandalous and offensive submissions.
Daphins (pic) et al, sitting as the Bureau, said this was a matter “of some gravity”. They were unable to understand Kenny Boy’s forensic style and found that his remarks in court and in the letter amounted to professional misconduct.
Medical evidence found that, “Mr Turley is in dire need of psychological help and personal support”.
Of course he needs help. Have you ever been trapped in Gladstone on a Saturday night?
Turls copped a public reprimand, costs of $1,500 against him and on top of that he’s given undertakings to keep seeing the shrink. For the next 12-months his legal practice has got to be supervised.
The Legal Practice Tribunal said it had the opportunity “to mould an order to assist the respondent to avoid the recurrence of these sorts of problems.” And it did just that.
Wigs off to Daphnis who recognised instinctively that the profession would be all the poorer if you rubbed out solicitors capable of such magnificent gibberish.
Sir Terence O’Rort reporting