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Statement from the Commissioner on Reporting Sexual Harassment

Date posted:

I acknowledge the recent Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal finding that it could not hear a charge of professional misconduct laid by me.

The matter was referred to the Tribunal after initial consideration by Commissioner May and a subsequent decision by me that the allegations were serious and ought to be tested in the Tribunal.

Section 77J of the Legal Practitioners Act states I must be satisfied there is evidence of misconduct before taking disciplinary action (including the laying of a charge in the Tribunal).

However, under the Act, I do not have the power to compel statements or evidence on oath from the complainant, the practitioner or supporting witnesses on either side.

The absence of a power to properly test evidence impacts on my assessment of the evidence and the state of my satisfaction.

In laying the charge, I believed I had fulfilled the requirements of the legislation, but the Tribunal has taken a different view and, as a result, I shall be appealing against the Tribunal’s decision and seeking a judicial review.

In the meantime, I would like to reassure everyone working in the profession who is experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination that they can have full confidence in me and my office to consider complaints and take action as appropriate under the legislation.

While the recent decision raises an immediate procedural difficulty, urgent consideration is being given to the steps necessary to overcome that difficulty.

I would also like to remind all who work in or with the legal profession of the anonymous reporting portal Speak safely.

If you are experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination or are aware of it occurring in the profession but are not prepared to make a complaint, I encourage you to report the conduct to me using Speak safely.