A former solicitor convicted and jailed for his role in helping Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale extort a Sydney taxi driver in 2017 has been struck off.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal yesterday ordered that Cameron James McKenzie, 39, be removed from the state’s roll of solicitors.
The tribunal, headed by Judicial Member the Honourable Duncan McMeekin QC, said it was left with “no alternative” other than to strike off McKenzie in order to sufficiently protect the public and the reputation of the legal profession.
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.
During a 2 November 2020 tribunal hearing, McKenzie challenged an application by the Queensland’s Legal Services Commissioner to have him struck off by arguing he was now a “a changed man”.
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.
“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.
However, the tribunal – comprising Mr McMeekin, Annette Bradfield and Keith Revell – rejected the submission in a 15-page written decision.
“We are acutely conscious that a decision here ending a career of a young man for at least the foreseeable future is a serious step,” the tribunal said. “We have determined nonetheless that there is no evidence to justify the view that Mr McKenzie is or is likely to become a person fit to practise.
“There is no alternative available that will sufficiently protect the public and the reputation of the profession other than to recommend that Mr McKenzie’s name be removed from the local roll.”
The tribunal also ordered McKenzie pay the LSC’s costs.
Read the decision.