Thanks to reader Ann for this report quoting the CEO of the Legal Services Board Michael McGarvie on the Gillard/Slater and Gordon matter.
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Reader Ann sent us the link to this story published by Crikey on 21 November, 2012. The author of the quoted paragraphs is Mark Latham who spoke with Mr McGarvie the current CEO of the Legal Services Board and the Legal Services Commissioner in Victoria:
In dealing with the various allegations against the Prime Minister in the Slater & Gordon matter, it is prudent to check the facts with the relevant legal and government authorities. Accordingly, I contacted the Legal Services Commissioner in Victoria, Michael McGarvie (the official who regulates lawyers and deals with ethical complaints against the legal profession) for comment on the obligations of lawyers in dealing with clients who may have broken the law.
While he would not reflect on the specifics of the Julia Gillard/Slater & Gordon matter, he was willing to answer the following hypothetical question: If a lawyer acts for a client and provides advice for the establishment of some kind of financial instrument but then years later believes that the client, in their use of the instrument, may have broken the law, such as in defrauding money, what are the lawyer’s obligations to report this matter to the police?
McGarvie answered: “The lawyer has a duty of confidentiality to the client, meaning that he or she is under no obligation to report the client to the police. The lawyer has a permanent obligation not to disclose material relating to a person for whom they have acted.”
Given the number of media outlets (not just Bolt) who have made allegations against Gillard on the question of reporting Wilson to the police, one might reasonably expect McGarvie to have received a high volume of inquiries from journalists seeking comment. He is, after all, the key authority in Victoria dealing with questions of lawyer/client obligations and ethics. McGarvie said I was the first person in the media to contact him on this particular issue.
Bolt is wrong in saying that Gillard was obliged under the law to report Wilson to the police. It was beyond his research capacity and duty of care to his readers to pick up the phone and ask for McGarvie’s opinion. That is, Bolt is not interested in hard evidence in spraying around allegations against the Prime Minister. He just invents claims for their political impact — smearing rather than reporting. He owes Gillard a retraction and apology.