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QCAT reprimands solicitor who dropped cocaine outside court

A solicitor convicted of serious drug possession when a bag of cocaine fell out of his pants pocket outside a court has been reprimanded and found to have engaged in unsatisfactory conduct.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal President Martin Daubney AO, in a decision published yesterday, said Corey Wayne Cullen had engaged in unsatisfactory conduct and was worthy of a public reprimand for the incident filmed by security cameras outside the Brisbane Magistrates Court on 30 August last year.

Mr Cullen, 30, pleaded guilty in the same court on 27 November 2019, to possession of a dangerous drug and was sentenced to perform community service.

Justice Daubney, in an ex-tempore decision delivered on 30 October, said: “The sentence proceeded on the factual basis that during a period of stress in (Cullen’s) life, he had … been binge drinking and had used the drug.

“He had forgotten about the remainder of the drug in the clip seal bag … left in the pocket of his suit trousers.

“When he next wore those trousers to work the drugs fell out of his pocket.”

The tribunal was told the bag which fell out Cullen’s pocket was later recovered by court security staff and contained 1.46 grams of powder which tested positive for cocaine.

Justice Daubney noted that, during Cullen’s sentencing by Chief Magistrate Terry Gardner, it was accepted the solicitor had not intended to take the drugs to court and had been “reckless in the way he managed those drugs”.

Judge Gardner sentenced Cullen to 80-hours’ community service and ordered no conviction be recorded.

As a result, the Legal Services Commission brought charges against Cullen for being convicted of a serious offence and conduct bringing the legal profession into disrepute.

Justice Daubney, in his seven-page ruling, said: “The Tribunal notes the expressions of remorse and contrition by (Cullen).

“(Cullen) has been significantly embarrassed by this incident, professionally and publicly, by virtue of the media attention that has been attracted. The Tribunal cannot, however, place a significant amount of weight on that factor, simply because that is what happens when you do stupid, illegal things.

“What is of more significant comfort to the Tribunal, for the purposes of setting an appropriate sanction, is the clear evidence of insight by the respondent into not only the fact that his offending conduct was patently wrong, but also the need for him to observe the highest standards which are expected of members of the profession.

“Allied with that are the positive steps that he has taken to address the mental health issues that he has encountered, and evidence of that can be seen from the various psychological reports which have been put before the Tribunal.”

As part of the ruling, Justice Daubney has made it a requirement that Cullen maintain ongoing psychological counselling and submit to quarterly drug tests and provide proof before the annual renewal of his practising certificate.

Read the full decision.

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