Lawyer struck off after trust account breaches, false invoices
May 21, 2018
The Supreme Court of Victoria has ordered a former Dandenong lawyer, Mr Robert Anthony Hession, be removed from the Victorian roll of lawyers.
The Victorian Legal Services Commissioner told the Court that Mr Hession had been banned from legal practice in late 2016 after he had been found guilty of 13 charges of professional misconduct. The Commissioner explained that the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Mr Hession had withdrawn funds from his law practice trust account without his clients’ authority, and then attempted to hide his offending by creating false invoices to justify the withdrawals.
The Court heard that VCAT found Mr Hession had also made false statements to the Commissioner and provided false documents during the Commissioner’s investigation. Mr Hession was subsequently reprimanded on each of the 13 charges, and had been suspended from legal practice for five years, with a recommendation that he be struck-off.
Further, the Commissioner told the Court that a Receiver appointed to wind up Mr Hession’s law practice, Hardys Lawyers, had discovered a $722,589 deficiency in its trust account, and that Mr Hession had been arrested and remanded in custody after he failed to appear at a Court-ordered examination in 2017. Mr Hession was later found guilty of civil contempt for failing to attend the examination.
Mr Hession did not appear before the strike-off hearing and did not provide any evidence or submissions in his defence, despite being offered the opportunity to do so in advance.
The Supreme Court found Mr Hession was not a fit and proper person to practise as a lawyer and ordered his name be removed from the Supreme Court’s roll of lawyers.
Commissioner, Fiona McLeay, welcomed the Court’s decision.
‘Lawyers who operate a trust account have strict obligations for how the account is to be managed, because it is client money they are dealing with’, Ms McLeay said.
‘Mr Hession’s dishonest and deceptive conduct in attempting to hide the fact he had stolen client money, amply demonstrates he is not fit and proper to practice law.’
For further information download the Supreme Court decision.