Kylie’s one-time lawyer before VCAT’s Legal Practice List

Update, 18 July 2008: Make that a $200,000, not $20,000, loan from rock impressario Michael Gudinski. I like the way he gave evidence to VCAT’s Legal Practice List by mobile phone from a US Billy Joel concert. Leonie Wood’s report for The Age is here.

Update, 15 July 2008: Apparently the Law Institute’s trust account inspector Ron Hall thumped the table while under cross-examination by the lawyer’s counsel. What drama! The Age‘s report is here. Mr Hall’s evidence provides a fascinating insight into the way trust account inspectors employed by the Law Institute think. Mr Hall said at one stage, he thought ‘right, I have enough here to put a practitioner up for alleged misconduct or unsatisfactory conduct’. Inspectors hold statutory office as individuals, and their job is to investigate compliance with the trust account regime, and to report their results to the Legal Services Board. The Legal Services Commissioner is charged with bringing prosecutions for misconduct or unsatisfactory conduct. Many trust account inspectors are employees of the Law Institute, and the Board delegates its functions in relation to trust accounts to the Institute. The Commissioner outsources the investigation of allegations of unsatisfactory conduct and misconduct to the Institute too. This is under the new simpler, more transparent, new and improved no-self-regulation-here! regime set up at such expense of paper and ink by the Legal Profession Act, 2004. According to The Age:

‘Mr Hall was asked if, during his investigation, he acted “at the express behest of the Australian Crime Commission”. He first said “yes”, adding he had been subpoenaed by the ACC. Asked again by VCAT deputy president Mark Dwyer, Mr Hall said the LIV investigation was his own work. But then he revealed that ACC officers gave him one of their documents.’

Update, 12 July 2008: The lawyer failed in his bid to have the Supreme Court prevent the Legal Profession Tribunal continuing to hear the disciplinary charges against him. And The Age reports on one of the transactions under scrutiny, a loan by Michael Gudinski to his then lawyer, of $20,000, said by the Legal Services Commissioner to be inadequately documented, and a breach of professional standards.Original post: The lawyer towards the centre of the regulators’ tax probe Project Wickenby, once Kylie Minogue’s and other celebrities’ lawyer, is again in the news as his VCAT Legal Practice List prosecution continues in his absence overseas. He has appealed Deputy President Dwyer’s refusal to adjourn the disciplinary hearing on the basis it would prejudice the hearing of what the solicitor claims are imminent criminal charges and the appeal will be heard in the Supreme Court on Friday morning. His barrister says he has no instructions in relation to the disciplinary matters. The Commissioner alleges the solicitor provided no cooperation with the investigation. I am not aware of Deputy President Dwyer sitting in the Legal Practice List before. He was the head of Freehills’s Environment and Planning Group and was appointed DP on 1 April 2007.

As far as I can see from Austlii, all of his decisions written reasons for which have been published on Austlii have involved local councils and I infer that they have all been planning matters. There is one exception: a real property list matter. A web profile of Mr Dwyer before his appointment says:

‘Mark was admitted to Practice in Victoria in 1982, and later in NSW (1996) and WA (2000). He has been accredited as a Specialist in Environment and Planning Law since commencement of the Specialisation Scheme in 1990 and was a member of the Specialisation Advisory Committee for Environment and Planning Law from 1996 to 2006.

Mark joined Freehills as a partner in 1995, and has headed the firm’s national Environment & Planning Law Group from 1998-2006.

Mark advises on the legal and regulatory framework relating to the development and use of land. This includes planning, environmental, land acquisition and valuation, heritage and native title issues.

Mark primarily assists clients with the planning approval process and environmental impact assessment associated with large-scale property and infrastructure developments and corporate transactions.

Mark has advised the Department of Sustainability and Environment (and its predecessors) on planning systems reform since 1987, including implementation of the Planning and Environment Act 1987, ‘new format’ planning schemes and ‘plain English’ definitions, subdivision and heritage legislation, and the Victoria Planning Provisions.

Mark’s other professional roles have included:

  • Chairman, Law Council of Australia’s national planning and environmental law committee (1999-2003) – this included presentation of the LCA submission on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to a Senate Inquiry;
  • Lecturer in Water, Environment, and Local Government Law within environmental engineering courses at Deakin University and Victoria University of Technology (1992-94);
  • Board member, Environment Defenders Office (1991-93);
  • Trustee – Kerrup-Jmara Aboriginal Elders Trust (1989-92);
  • Deputy Chair and Executive Member of LIV Environmental Law Section, and various ad hoc LIV committees (1994-2000);
  • Executive Member of VPELA, and various ad hoc VPELA committees.’
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