12th December 2018

Rule 32.1 of the Uniform Solicitors Rules reads as follows:  32.1 A solicitor must not make an allegation against another Australian legal practitioner of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct unless the allegation is made bona fide and the solicitor believes on reasonable grounds that available material by which the allegation could be supported provides a proper basis for a complaint.

Contrast the conditions placed on lawyers before they can complain about another lawyer with the conditions placed on police.

A lawyer effectively has to make sufficient inquiries in order to satisfy the “reasonable grounds” and “available material/proper basis” conditions.

Case in point: a lawyer hears rumours that 3838 is acting as a police informant. How does that lawyer satisfy themselves on reasonable grounds before making a complaint? It is an almost impossible ask, given the nature of the circumstances. Where does the lawyer get the material to form a proper basis?

Now imagine that a police officer heard the same rumours and said nothing. Several years later there is a Royal Commission and his or her inaction is exposed. Who suffers? The lawyer cites rule 32.1 and says “Sorry, I didn’t have reasonable grounds and had no access to material.” Where does the police officer hide? Nowhere!

Lawyers are officers of the court for life or until struck off the roll. Yet they do not carry the same positive obligations to expose professional misconduct of their peers as a junior constable. Should that remain the case?

It is suspected that 3838’s behaviour was not the well-kept secret the police gang of 15 thought. Yet no lawyer (besides 3838) will get a kick in the rump, because of rule 32.1. Will the junior police involved be so benevolently treated?

Why should lawyers be held to a lower standard than police?