Queensland appeal judges, McMurdo P, Keane JA and Wilson J, have pulled up the drawbridge on one Ian Bruce Bell. They found he is not a sufficiently fit and proper type to pass into the Promised Land of the Brisvegas Bar n’ Grill.
Highlights of Bells glittering pre-admission career include:
- A conviction for unauthorised meat processing under the Meat Industry Act. He took unpasteurised organic milk and pre-ordered organic beef to an organic market wrongly believing the products complied with the legal requirements.
- Bankruptcy in 1991 when he was an insurance agent. The trouble was sheeted home to an insurance company’s failure to pay him commissions. He did not disclose the bankruptcy on his application for admission, but later deposed that he never accepted any moral culpability for the bankruptcy and is not ashamed of it.
- Twelve breaches of domestic violence orders between April and November 2003. He was convicted on each charge and fined $3,000 as a global punishment. Bell wrote on his admission application: “In 2004, fined for breaches of void not voidable temporary domestic violence order. Finding of fact on each count: ‘Mr Bell has never been accused of committing domestic violence or property damage’.”
- Bringing two appeals to the Full Court of the Family Court, both of which were struck out for want of prosecution with indemnity costs awarded against him.
- Contempt proceedings against him in the Federal Magistrates Court for alleged breaches of the court’s orders. These proceedings remain unresolved.
The appeal judges weren’t too fussed about the “minor regulatory offence” concerning the milk and meat. Nor did the Admissions Board think that of itself the bankruptcy would make Ding-Dong unsuitable for admission.
Of more concern were matters raised by Jon Moore, the barrister who acted for Mrs Bell. He filed an objection to Bell’s admission, pointing to affidavits filed by Bell earlier this year. At that stage Bell was acting for himself in Federal Magistrates Court and Family Court proceedings.
Bell’s finely drawn affidavit in the magistrates’ court said:
“If this court countenances any continuation of such a travesty, there will be the most severe consequences for the officers concerned.”
In March in the Family Court he deposed:
“I state here and now that if this kind of illegal brutality against my children does not now cease, then each and every person causing it will rue the day they ignored this warning.”
When taken to task about these comments Bell filed another affidavit in which he stated that the remarks were “no more than appropriate”. Later he told his admission hearing that while his statements were “unfortunate” they “did not suggest anything improper”.
The appeal court was unmoved, finding that the statements:
”... demonstrate an inability to distinguish between vigorous but legitimate advocacy of a position and a reaction to an adverse decision of the courts which is entirely unacceptable in an officer of the court …”
The judges also thought that the awarding of indemnity costs for two struck out appeals “suggests some degree of culpability in his conduct”.
Similarly, with the contempt proceedings:
“It is ordinarily inconsistent with suitability for admission as a legal practitioner that an applicant have an unresolved allegation of contempt of court against him.”
McMurdo (seen here) and her brethren also were decidedly unhappy about what emerged from the affidavit of Peter Byrnes, the solicitor and general counsel of the utterly radiant (and usually smelling-like-roses) Queensland Law Society.
On March 24, 2004 Byrnes and the secretary of the Admissions Board, Ms Timmins, met with Bell who was anxious to know why his admission was being opposed.
During the little chat Bell said, “opposition to his admission could be traced to the pro-paedophilia lobby which reaches into the court system and government of this State”.
When the court probed Bell about that “extraordinary claim” he did not seek to withdraw it or apologise, but claimed he had “very good reason for saying that” and he “could only assume that some improper influence” was behind the opposition to his admission as a legal practitioner.
That finished him off. His statements on the application form were not full and frank, he lacked proper regard for the authority of the judicial system, he has an unresolved allegation of contempt against him and he made “unsubstantiated, scandalous” claims about those involved in the administration of justice.
The court was at pains to say that he was not forever barred from the Promised Land:
“Human experience is that people sometimes behave atypically, irrationally, emotionally and unwisely when involved in a discordant marital break-up, especially where the custody and welfare of children is concerned.
It may be that when Mr Bell has had the outstanding contempt proceedings finalised and his proceedings in the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court have ended, he will be able to file material sufficient to satisfy this court that, despite the matters of concern referred to … he has become a fit and proper person suitable for admission as a legal practitioner.”
We all look forward to that happy day.
Sir Terence O’Rort reporting from Queensland