Robyn Tampoe, Schapelle Corby’s solicitor

Update, 10 June 2009: Mr Tampoe has been struck off the roll of solicitors.

Update, 7 July 2008: Watch the video of Tampoe slagging off his client here.

Original post: Lawyers and their regulators should care about the Corby case, because at the relevant time, a lot of people loved Schapelle and Schapelle does not now much like her lawyers. One of them has hit back, calling the Corbys “the biggest pile of trash I have ever come across in my life”. People will think this is normal, or at least the tip of the iceberg. And much confusion seems to be going around about Mr Tampoe’s fabrication of a defence for Corby. For giving this interview, and saying this, I condemn Mr Tampoe, who is no longer a solicitor, with all my fibre. What I question below is whether the media have got their reportage of his claim to have completely fabricated the defence right — if he means what I imagine he means, I say — so what? Whether or not the media have got it right, I reckon his comments might well harm his former client. They could have been personally deeply hurtful, they could affect her treatment in jail, they could affect any claim for clemency she might in the future make, and they could affect the result of the prisoner exchange treaty negotiations underway between the Australian and Indonesian governments, or the speed with which they progress.

I watched the Channel 9 special a few weeks ago promising the hidden truth on the Corby saga. A working class family cracking under the most extraordinary pressure was fairly ugly, as edited by Channel 9, but the only trash on show was Channel 9. What a disgraceful hatchet job and obvious breach of trust.

Mr Tampoe said he invented Corby’s defence that the marijuana was placed in her bag by a corrupt Australian baggage handler, saying “I gave you a defence. I’ll take it away. As fast as I gave it, I’ll take it away”. “Three weeks to put a defence together; I put a defence together,” he said. “Baggage handlers didn’t put drugs in the bag. [They had] nothing to do with it, but now she [Corby] believes it. … Who’ll fucking believe it, it is not true. That is why you can’t … find direct evidence relating to baggage handlers – because they didn’t do it.”

He is reportedly being investigated by Queensland’s Legal Services Commissioner, but I doubt it’s for ‘fabricating a defence’. Rather, it must be for breach of solicitor-client confidentiality. And it is hard to imagine that there has been a more egregious case in Australia’s history. But I’d like to know in what sense Tampoe fabricated a defence. The question may be complicated as the Indonesian criminal law may differ relevantly from ours. Perhaps he put forward the defence as a positive assertion. But in our system, I imagine Tampoe would have presented the defence like this:

You should not convict this woman unless there is no reasonable doubt that she knew the drugs were in the bag at the relevant moment. Though they were in her possession when they were found, she had been separated from the boogie board bag since she put it on the plane in Brisbane. On the same day as she left Sydney, where the plane stopped en route to Denpassar, a large shipment of cocaine was shipped out of the airport by a drug ring involving corrupt baggage handlers. And a man awaiting trial who must be presumed innocent in the meantime overheard a conversation in prison between two men and alleged that one of them planted the marijuana in Corby’s boogie board bag in Brisbane with the intention of having another person remove it in Sydney, and that there had been a mix up. There are at least two explanations for Corby being in possession of the dope at the airport: it was put there by corrupt baggage handlers in an interstate dope transfer gone wrong, or Schapelle planned to traffic it. The first is not so implausible as not to constitute a reasonable doubt, so Corby should not be convicted.

The witness, John Ford, gave viva voce evidence at Corby’s trial. A baggage handler also gave evidence, I think. Tampoe did not say he connived at the giving of evidence he knew to be false (if he did, he should be thrown in jail). What he said was that he heard something on the news about baggage handlers, thought — Eureka! There’s a defence!’, and ran with it as a reasonable doubt generator. If so, what’s the problem? Perhaps this is what the Queensland Law Society President, Megan Mahon, meant when she came luke-warmly to the defence of Mr Tampoe, saying:

“There are lots of tactics – as most people accept – in litigation, particularly in criminal defence litigation.”

“At the end of the day we have a person who, on national television, has said that… the entire defence was fabricated by him.”

“Whether or not that turns out to be true and whether it was perhaps maybe a bit of media grandstanding and a bit more wise in afterthought, is irrelevant.”

“It has been said on national television and it is unfortunate if that in any way suggests that that is an ordinary course of practice for the solicitors of Queensland, because it certainly is not.”

See also:

5 Replies to “Robyn Tampoe, Schapelle Corby’s solicitor”

  1. Good article Mr Warne. You are of course 100% correct, but that that alone isn’t going to help Schapelle Corby at this point.

    I cannot find a word harsh enough to describe Tampoe.

    I just hope that someone soon helps this poor poor woman. It is staggering that Australia allows her to fester in that cell.

  2. Thanks for this article. I am a friend of Schapelle’s and I know how her and her family are suffering. Tampoe is a vindictive person who is angry that he was sacked.

    Tampoe saying he fabricated the defence is just stupid. Is he also going to claim that he fabricated the arrest of baggage handlers for moving drugs on the same day Schapelle left Sydney for Bali? Is he also saying he fabricated the John Wheeler report and the AFP investigation operation Mocha that targeted baggage handlers smuggling drugs during 2004 and early 2005.

    Tampoe used this defence as the evidence was there that Baggage handlers were involved in moving drugs through airports. Schapelle is innocent and some form of defence had to be used to fight for her freedom and during that time her life.

    Bottom line is that Schapelle did not get a fair trial. If she had then she would not be sitting in that dump today.

  3. Mr. Warne:
    Isn’t there something someone can do for Ms. Corby? Your very level-headed analysis of this singular aspect of the case indicates to me that not all of Australia has gone mad and turned against her. I feel helpless here in the U.S., where I’d like to believe the American government wouldn’t give up on me the way the Australian government seems to have given up on Corby. She was not proven guilty. Doesn’t that count for anything?

  4. Thank you for this article. I will show this to the next person who claims that Schapelle is guilty without a doubt “because her lawyer fabricated her defence.”
    How ridiculous. There is so much reasonable doubt in this case it would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.
    This girl has been crucified by the Australian media. They don’t stop to consider that they are causing her real harm. They treat her like she is a cartoon character, but this is a real person in a dire situation.
    The media is forever throwing mud at her deceased father, or paying people to fabricate stories. It must stop.
    I hope that more lawyers will speak out in support of Schapelle Corby.

  5. Tampoe and the media are crucifying this woman. The case was outrageous (see link). And 20 years? Come on…. that wasn’t a judicial process, it was politics.

    Since then the Australian media have basically killed her: a slow death in a hell hole. Giving time to the likes of Tampoe, and reporting it the way they have: what words can describe that? Evil? Pretty close.

    Is anyone every going to help her? Doesn’t look like it. I guess some people have no compassion and no soul.

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