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Hellfire Club
17 March, 2005  
Nose-thumbing "attorney" gets suspended sentence

He’d practised in Melbourne for 13 years without being an “attorney”. Justice Bill “Silver Tray” Gillard found Sylvester Finbarr Nagle in “contumacious defiance of a court order” and then gave him a suspended sentence. Meanwhile, Buffalo Bruce reports from the Top End on a squabble between the local Law Society and the Legal Practitioner’s Complaints Committee.


Sylvester Finbarr Nagle who has been practising as an “attorney” in Melbourne for at least 13 years, but is neither an “attorney”, nor solicitor, nor barrister, nor any other variant of the trade, has narrowly avoided another stint in the slammer.

Justice Bill “Silver Tray” Gillard of the Victorian Supreme Court appears to have taken pity on poor Sylvester who, among other things, is described as overweight, visually impaired, delusional, mildly paranoid and suffering from Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and hyper-cholesterolemia.

Nagle faced 49 separate charges of contempt, 44 of which Silver Tray upheld. They all related to Sylvester’s inability to stop practising as an “attorney” after he was ordered to do so by Justice O’Brien in November 1999.

The delusional “lawyer” has been in similar strife before with restraining orders imposed in 1991, and contempt convictions in 1994 and 1996. Nagle served 60 days in prison for the 1996 conviction, but apparently to no avail. Since then he has been happily masquerading as an attorney in Family Court and insurance matters.

Nagle submitted, “he was acting on behalf of another pursuant to a power of attorney”. However Justice Silver Tray found Nagle’s conduct went so far as to show a person who “thumbs his nose at the law” and that his “contumacious defiance of a court order strikes at the very heart of the judicial system”.

Gillard carefully pointed out that a restraining order is imposed not to “preserve a monopoly to enable lawyers to charge for their legal services” good heavens above no! Rather it is, “to protect the public from unqualified persons acting in a professional capacity”.

Interestingly, not one of Nagle’s clients complained to the Law Institute of Victoria or the court about his legal skills.

But poor, fat Sylvester got lucky. His 22-week prison term was converted to a three-year suspended sentence.

This was despite a rather damning finding by Silver T:

“The aggravating features of the contempts by Mr Nagle are his deliberate defiance of the undertaking given and his attempts to get round the undertaking by misspelling the word attorney in the email address.”

He ordered Nagle to deliver to the court all powers of attorney in his possession, to resign all powers of attorney and to pay all costs on a party party basis.

Nagle alo undertook “not to provide legal services in any way to any member of the public”.

The Tray concluded with this friendly little message:

“Mr Nagle, you’ve reached the end of the road, if I might say so, so don’t mess it up.”

Law Society complains about Complaints Committee

imageMeantime, Buffalo Bruce, our man in Darwin, reports that the NT Law Society has taken a complaint about the Legal Practitioners Complaints Committee to the Supreme Court.

The case concerned charges of professional misconduct brought by the Top End’s Law Society against Darwin solicitor Ken Parish.

Apparently Ken had a few problems keeping and auditing the funds held in his trust account. The Legal Practitioners Complaints Committee was presented with the allegations in September 2003, but then went strangely stumm for over a year.

Despite a number of inquires, the Law Society received no information on the progress of proceedings until December 2004 when it got a copy of the committee’s determination, dated November 2004.

Parish appeared to get off lightly. Two charges were dismissed and although he was found guilty of professional misconduct on the balance of charges, no action was deemed necessary.

Justice Riley found the following “undisputed fact” sufficient to order a re-hearing of Parish’s case, before a “differently constituted committee”:

” the Legal Practitioner’s Complaints Committee did not notify the Law Society of the date of the inquiry, did not allow the Law Society an opportunity to call evidence, nor to cross-examine witnesses or make submissions.”

Sounds as though the heat had got to them.