Queensland’s highest court has blocked a man convicted and jailed on serious child exploitation offences from being allowed to practise as a solicitor.
The Court of Appeal (COA) in Brisbane on Friday ruled against an application by a 30-year-old man – identified only as GBK – to be admitted as a solicitor because he was “not a fit and proper person to be admitted to the legal profession”.
The COA – comprising Chief Justice Helen Bowskill and Justices David Boddice and Declan Kelly – was told GBK, then aged 25, was handed a combined two-year probation and suspended jail term five years ago.
GBK was convicted in March 2017 of both Queensland and Commonwealth criminal offences, including three counts of possessing child exploitation material, four of “observations or recordings in breach of privacy” and one of using the internet to access child exploitation.
The court was told GBK committed the offences between the ages of 20-24 and was now 30 years old.
The COA, in a jointly-written nine-page decision, said GBK had met all of the academic and practical training to be admitted as a solicitor, but that his application was opposed by the Legal Practitioners Admissions Board (LPAB).
“(GBK) has completed all of the academic and practical legal training requirements for admission under the (Legal Profession) Act as well as the Supreme Court (Admission) Rules 2004 (Qld),” the COA said.
“However, in the material filed in support of his application, (GBK) disclosed that he had been convicted of a number of serious criminal offences.
GBK’s application was opposed by the LPAB on the grounds he is not a fit and proper person for admission to the legal profession.
“(GBK) in his affidavit (seeking admission) … describes the convictions as having followed ‘after years of suffering from a pornography addiction as an unhealthy way to relieve stress’,” the COA said.
“He was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment on the possessing child exploitation material offences, which was wholly suspended.
“He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on the Commonwealth offence, but ordered to be released forthwith, on a recognisance release order.
“For the remaining offences he was ordered to be supervised under a probation order for two years.”
As a result of the convictions, GBK became a reportable offender under the Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) Act 2004 (Qld) for five years. That obligation recently expired.
LPAB, in its letter to the court, described GBK’s offending as “reprehensible in nature”, spanning 3½ years and included breaches of trust involving housemates.
The COA, in denying GBK’s application for admission, said the offending conduct was not such that it should be concluded he would never be a fit and proper person to be admitted to the legal profession.
“However, it is such, having regard to the nature of the offences committed, the time over which and since the offences were committed, (GBK’s) age over the period when the offences were committed and the explanation for the commission of the offences, as to lead us to conclude that, at this time, (he) is not a fit and proper person to be admitted to the legal profession,” the COA said.
“The application for admission to the legal profession is therefore refused.”
Read the decision.