A former solicitor has lost an appeal to the Court of Appeal over a refusal to issue him with a certificate to practise law in Queensland.
In Brisbane on Friday, the court dismissed an appeal with costs brought by Robert Andrew Corwin Legat against Queensland Law Society (QLS).
Legat commenced action against QLS in May 2019 after the Society refused his application for a practising certificate (PC).
The QLS decision was subsequently reviewed by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal in February 2022, with tribunal judicial member Peter Lyons KC finding Legat was not a fit and proper person to hold a PC.
Legat’s 14 May 2019 application to QLS for a PC was rejected after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) banned Legat in September 2017.
ASIC found Legat created a sham diamond trade as a means of selling payday loans to vulnerable people.
Legat, the former director and legal counsel of Queensland’s Fast Access Finance (FAF), was investigated for the scheme, which authorities say involved Legat preying on vulnerable customers who approached his company for short-term loans.
The customers were instead offered the opportunity to buy, on credit, diamonds that were kept off site, according to investigating officers.
The diamond model has been the subject of several court hearings, including the Federal Court in 2015 and 2017.
Customers would sign a privacy act consent form, which recorded that the customer had applied to “borrow a certain amount of money”, and then would sign other forms, including a contract to purchase diamonds.
The Court of Appeal, comprising Chief Justice Bowskill and Justices Bond and Beech, last week refused Legat leave to appeal QCAT’s decision and his application to adduce further evidence.
In a 31-page written decision, the court said: “The appeal is dismissed with costs.”
The court noted Legat was admitted to practice in Queensland in 1998 and worked as a solicitor between 1999 and 2002.
The court, in summarising events leading to Legat’s PC application refusal, said: “On 27 September 2017, (ASIC) took action against the appellant personally, prohibiting him from engaging in credit activities for a period of three years and finding that he was not a fit and proper person to hold a credit licence.”
“On 4 May 2018, (Legat) applied to renew his practising certificate for the 2018-2019 year… (and) did not disclose the ASIC decision.
“(Legat) sought a review of the ASIC decision. On 9 April 2019, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) handed down its decision … (and) increased the prohibition from three years to five years.
“When (Legat) applied to renew his practising certificate on 14 May 2019, he disclosed that he had been the subject of a previously undisclosed suitability matter, advising (QLS) by email as to the AAT decision. Specifically, (Legat) referred to the finding in the AAT decision that he was not a fit and proper person to engage in credit activities and that he was the subject of a banning order for a period of five years.
“On 13 August 2020, (QLS) resolved that (Legat) was not a fit and proper person for the renewal of his practising certificate … (and) was notified of this decision on 25 September 2020.
Legat subsequently applied to QCAT for a review of QLS’s decision under s51(9) of the Legal Profession Act 2007 (Qld).
“The Tribunal, constituted by the Hon. Peter Lyons, judicial member, refused (Legat’s) application to review the Law Society’s decision to refuse to renew (his) practising certificate.
“In so deciding, the Tribunal relied principally on: (Legat’s) role in, and state of mind regarding, the diamond model; his non-disclosure in May 2018 of the banning order made by ASIC against him; the appellant’s comments regarding adverse findings made against him; and (Legat’s) lack of insight into, and remorse in relation to, his conduct.”
Read the decision.