In the matter of the return of a Warrant to Search executed by Victoria Police on the former law offices of Julia Eileen GILLARD
To recap - the warrant was executed several weeks ago. Boxes of documents were sealed and removed by police. The warrant and things seized under its authority were to be brought before a Magistrate in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court Monday, 1 July. The obvious parties who may have a claim of legal professional privilege over the documents are Wilson and Blewitt, but sources close to the Court tell me there are more parties than those two who propose to claim client/lawyer privilege.
The party must have been a client. Slater and Gordon must have employed the lawyer. Documents that involve the client must have been created in that relationship and seized under the warrant a few weeks ago.
So one potential party is the AWU itself. The AWU was a client of Slater and Gordon. Its name was used extensively in the frauds.
I wrote to the National Secretary of the AWU Paul Howes yesterday.
I said, "Paul, has the AWU claimed privilege in the material seized by police from Slater and Gordon?"
Overnight, Paul wrote back to me. He said, "No."
So the AWU is not making a claim of privilege.
What has Slater and Gordon told the world about its files
On 4 September, 2012, Slater and Gordon wrote to Blewitt's lawyers and enclosed a copy of a 1996 letter from Ralph Blewitt to the Industrial Relations Court in which he claimed lawyer/client privilege over the contents of his conveyance and mortgage files.
Slater and Gordon said that the letter was found in a file it had, described as containing "correspondence with the Court and lawyers for various branches of the AWU."
Slater and Gordon acted for the Victorian Branch of the AWU from 1991 to circa July, 1995. It apparently acted for the National Construction Branch when Wilson became its National Secretary in an uncontested election declared on 6 March, 1995 and apparently acted for that branch for a few months, that is until the time it says it acknowledged its conflict of interest and ceased to act for a union official and for the AWU.
Slater and Gordon must have done a lot of work for the National Construction Branch of the AWU during that time. It sent 11 boxes of files to the branch, that must have been done in the belief that the branch was the owner of those files. Including the defamation file in which Slater and Gordon acted for Ralph Blewitt.
On 16 October last year, Arnold Bloch Leibler wrote on Slater and Gordon's behalf to Ralph Blewitt's lawyers, this extract explains:
Wow. 11 boxes of files went to the National Construction Branch. I hope those boxes were safe, because apparently a lot of stuff got knocked off from the head office of the National Construction Branch.
As you know, Slater and Gordon wrote to Ralph in August last year and told him the firm was reviewing its files from the AWU scandal period. It asked him to waive the privilege it had asked him to claim when the files on his conveyance and mortgage were subpoenaed by the Industrial Relations Court. It told him it might ask him to waive privilege on other files it held in which he was the client. Former managing director Peter Arnold publicly called on Ralph to waive privilege on Slater and Gordon files.
But by October, as you may remember, Slater and Gordon decided the files they'd been reviewing weren't there anyway.
So beyond the conveyance and mortgage files, police have seized some things in which more than 2 parties are claiming some entitlement to client lawyer professional privilege. A privilege which exists over documents created for the purpose of legal advice. The AWU confirmed it has one file from the time, that is a file containing correspondence with the Court (ie Industrial Relations Court) and lawyers acting for other branches of the AWU.
We know Slater and Gordon and Maurice Blackburn acted respectively for Bruce Wilson's "group" and the incoming Bob Smith AWU Victoria leadership team over a dispute to do with the Victorian AWU bank accounts. What was that all about?