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Barry Lane
13 July, 2006  
Palely loitering silks and their tax bills

It seems that the incidence of income tax is causing grave bouts of ill-health and mental confusion at inner Victorian Bar & Lounge

imageOn May 15 Justice Hansen of the Supreme Court ordered Anthony Edward Hooper QC to cough up $399,674.24 by way of security by COB on May 18, 2006. See Deputy Commissioner of Taxation (Cth) v Hooper (No 2).

That sum represented a judgment debt obtained by the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation from Master Kings on December 17, 2005.

Hooper appealed Master King’s order and sought leave to defend. Hansen granted leave in relation to part of the debt but due to Hooper’s conduct, he thought it time to get out the lash and impose some discipline on the errant silk.

Hooper’s history of tardiness is not a pretty one, as Hansen noted.

The Deputy Commissioner of Taxation had commenced proceedings against the silk in 2002. In April 2005 Hansen ordered he could file defences in respect of certain sums, but by the time of the trial in May this year the recalcitrant silk had failed to comply with every order issued by the court – in April, June, August, November and December of 2005 and in February 2006.

Apparently Hoopes was just too ill to comply. Affidavits sworn by his solicitor, Stuart Winter, and a letter from his doctor, Elizabeth Carew-Reid, were presented to the court, as late as the day of the trial itself.

They painted a heart-wrenching picture of the constantly “nauseated”, bed-ridden barrister.

From Winter’s affidavit as to what he was “told”:

“Each morning Mr Hooper wakes feeling nauseated … has headaches and little energy to do more than sit up. Following medication … he starts to feel better about one hour later and he is able to move around the house, bath and so forth. On some days he is able to function to a certain extent, but on other days, which are becoming more often, after about two hours or so he commences to suffer quite severe pain in his lower back, shortness of breath if he moves around and a complete loss of energy. As a result he has to lie down for a few hours before he has energy to do anything else. This occurs during the evening as well…

At present Mr Hooper cannot concentrate for very long and finds he is making simple errors constantly – easy spelling mistakes and so forth. He has found it extremely difficult to make any arrangements for business or other serious appointments or time to telephone or meet with people, because he is concerned that he will not be well enough to meet with them and concentrate on matters needing discussion…

He has become extremely stressed on any occasions when he has met with people. If he does attempt to go out to attend to matters he finds that he needs help to get home and he is so exhausted that he has go to bed for the rest of the day and still feel energy-less and stressful on the following day.”

Hooper didn’t file an affidavit himself, nor did he appear. No doctor appeared on the day of the trial either, leaving Hansen to draw the following, somewhat logical, conclusion:

“In these circumstances the conclusion is open and in the circumstances is to be drawn, in my opinion, that the failure to comply with the order requiring filing of the defence and an affidavit or affidavits as to the merits is not due to the medical condition of the defendant. That is an extraordinary position, in light of the history of this case.”

The case was reported in the Newsblog and later in The Australian on June 6, 2006.

imageHansen dismissed all of Hooper’s contentions in his judgment of June 5, 2006.

No doubt this was particularly distressing for Hoopes because he was under the mistaken impression that he had “wiped the slate clean” with the tax department pursuant to some “agreement or arrangement” made “on or about” March 18, 1992.

It appears that all has not been gloom and doom for Hooper. The poor fellow did manage to drag himself along to a 50-year reunion at his old alma mater, Scotch College, in late 2004.

There he is jacketless and in rude good health, on the left of the snap.

* * *

Then there was the Clifford Pannam case, where the busy silk pleaded guilty to understating his income by some $110,000 over three years commencing in 1981.

Dr Pannam, who frequently appears for clients before the stipes at the Victoria Racing Club, was given a six month suspended jail term by Magistrate Brian Barrow on March 18, 1991.

It was reported by The Hun on that day that although Cliffy earned “lots of money” his lack of interest in his personal affairs had “produced a state of chaos” in his life.

imageRelationship breakdown and the shock of the Ash Wednesday bushfires in February 1983 had further compounded his woes, the court was told by his colleague, friend and neighbour, Phillip Dunn. Further, Dunn claimed that although Pannam (pic) “makes a lot of money, yet he has none. He and money do not mix”.

Nicholas Cowdrey QC, who was prosecuting on behalf of the Bar Council, told the Bureau de Spank in June 1991, that Clifford had managed to earn the singularly unchaotic sums of $286,000, $328,000 and $363,000 respectively, in the three years in question.

The Bureau suspended Dr Pannam for three months.

Chaos no longer reigns in Clifford’s fiscal life. This may be due to an arrangement he is said to have entered into with his accountant in 1991. He gives all his income to the accountant, who then doles out “pocket money” as and when required.

Perhaps other members of the inner bar might consider the same and avoid all the confusion, embarrassment and nastiness over those misunderstandings with the tax department.

If only Hoopes has sought advice from Cliffy he may not be in the pickle he’s in now.


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