An Ipswich principal has been struck off the roll and will be publicly reprimanded after being found to have engaged in professional misconduct for years.
Bradley John Munt, sole practitioner at the now-closed Bradley Munt & Co at Redbank Plains, faced 31 charges laid by the Legal Services Commission (LSC), and all were proven at a hearing in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) in October.
Justice Brown delivered her decision yesterday, finding Mr Munt failed to make cost disclosures, withdrew trust funds without authority, failed to provide an itemised bill, failed to deposit trust money, charged excessive legal costs, and failed to comply with LSC notices.
Mr Munt, who was admitted in 1985 and had held an unrestricted practising certificate since 1991, did not appear at the October 30 hearing, saying he would rely on evidence and responses already filed. Calls to Mr Munt by QCAT, “out of an abundance of caution”, were not answered.
The first of two discipline applications by the LSC contained 28 charges related to conduct in 10 estate matters, and one property settlement, dating from 2012.
Justice Brown said it should be reasonably inferred that, given the respondent’s length of practice and responsibilities as the sole principal and practitioner of a firm, he was aware of the requirements under the Legal Profession Act 2007 (Qld) (LPA)
She said Mr Munt’s behaviour suggested a blind disregard or complete ignorance of his obligations under the LPA rather than dishonesty, which the LSC had argued.
“The Tribunal does, however, find that the respondent grossly failed to exercise due diligence in the management of his files, rendering of invoices and in ensuring that the requisite procedures had been followed before withdrawing monies from the trust accounts of the relevant clients,” she said.
She said Mr Munt’s repeated failure to provide costs disclosures was conduct that fell “well short of, to a substantial degree, the standard of professional conduct observed by members of the profession of good repute and competency”.
She said his unauthorised withdrawals from trust accounts “could only be regarded as reckless and a serious breach of one of his core obligations as a legal practitioner”.
“The Tribunal considers that the respondent’s conduct in relation to this group of charges was a gross dereliction of the standard of competence and diligence expected of a reasonable practitioner which would justify a finding that the respondent is not a fit and proper person for practise,” she said.
The second application by the LSC contained three charges related to the failure to comply with notices from the LSC under s 443(3) of the LPA.
In his affidavit, Mr Munt said at the time of his offending, he had faced professional and personal stressors, including an overwhelming workload, COVID-19, a high turnover of staff and inadequate administrative support.
He pointed to the stress, shame and embarrassment the proceedings had caused, that he had closed his office, and that he had no intention to practise law again.
“While the respondent attributes his conduct to professional and personal stressors, they demonstrate a lack of insight into the primary obligations of a legal practitioner and lack of prioritisation and do not explain, let alone excuse, the level of failure of the respondent over an extended period of time,” Justice Brown said.
She said Mr Munt had provided no candid or full explanation of his conduct, nor how the failures occurred or what had been done to address them.
“In the present case, the respondent’s conduct shows a failure to demonstrate integrity, reliability, or an appropriate level of efficiency in relation to the administration of trust money to a degree that demonstrates that he was, and remains, unfit to practise,” she said.
“Such a significant degree of indifference to the fundamental obligations which rest upon him as a legal practitioner supports the fact that the public needs to be protected from such a person continuing or being able to continue in practice.”
Justice Brown also ordered Mr Munt pay the LSC’s court costs.