A solicitor convicted and jailed for helping former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale extort a Sydney taxi driver in 2017 is a “changed man” and is challenging a bid to have him struck off the solicitors’ roll.
Cameron James McKenzie, 39, today appeared before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Brisbane to challenge a Legal Services Commission (LSC) application to have him removed permanently from the state’s roll of solicitors.
McKenzie was sentenced to 18 months’ jail after a Brisbane District Court jury found him guilty of one count of extortion in July 2019.
His sentence was suspended after serving nine months in custody.
McKenzie, who surrendered his Queensland Law Society-issued practising certificate two months after being jailed, was convicted alongside Pisasale and escort Yutian Li for extorting Li’s former partner for up to $10,000.
McKenzie was convicted of extortion for sending a letter of demand to Li’s former partner, without reasonable cause, at the request of Pisasale.
LSC counsel Marilyn Lester told the tribunal the crime committed by McKenzie was so serious it left “an indelible mark on his character” and the only sanction fitting his conduct was for him to be struck off.
Ms Lester said McKenzie was no longer a fit and proper person to practise law, that his conduct had brought the legal profession into disrepute and that any failure to strike him off for the offence of extortion would “not bode well for the legal profession”.
Barrister Christopher Upton, for McKenzie, said his client was deeply remorseful for his actions, had undergone psychological treatment since release from prison and now had considerable insight into his criminal conduct.
Mr Upton said that at the time of the offence McKenzie had a misplaced admiration for then mayor Pisasale and had held him in high regard.
“The admiration and esteem he once held for Mr Pisasale are no longer a consideration,” Mr Upton said.
He said McKenzie contended he had only assisted Pisasale in the criminal offending because he was trying to “curry favour” with a then highly-respected and influential member of the Ipswich community.
The tribunal was told McKenzie was remorseful, contrite and embarrassed by his conduct.
“I say (McKenzie) is a different man than he was in 2019,” Mr Upton said. “There is compelling evidence that he is now a changed man and is (continually) changing.”
Mr Upton submitted McKenzie should be suspended from practising for a period of three years, undergo ongoing psychological treatment and submit to ethics training.
QCAT judicial member the Honourable Duncan McMeekin QC reserved his findings.