Solicitor banned for two years for directing girlfriend to make a false statutory declaration
October 9, 2018
A solicitor who tried to help his holidaying girlfriend get out of her university degree’s mandatory clinical work has been banned from legal practice for almost two years.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found solicitor, Mr Danny Nguyen, guilty of four charges of professional misconduct and one charge of unsatisfactory professional conduct after he admitted to directing his then girlfriend to make a false statutory declaration, witnessing the false statutory declaration and preparing two false documents in support.
The Victorian Legal Services Commissioner told VCAT that in 2015 Mr Nguyen’s girlfriend had missed numerous mandatory clinical attendances in her final year of a University of Melbourne dentistry degree. To explain those absences to the University and allow her to complete a final year subject so as not to delay her graduation, Mr Nguyen directed her to complete a statutory declaration falsely stating that on the dates of the absences she had been appearing as a witness in a court trial. Mr Nguyen witnessed and affixed his solicitor’s stamp to the declaration and then prepared a letter to the University’s Dental School on his law practice’s letterhead stating that the student was a witness in ongoing court proceedings.
After the University became aware that the student was actually on holiday in Queensland and not attending court as she had declared, Mr Nguyen admitted to the University that he bore the responsibility for directing her to sign the false statutory declaration.
VCAT found Mr Nguyen guilty of four charges of professional misconduct for directing his girlfriend to make a false statutory declaration, for witnessing the declaration, and for dishonestly preparing both the letter and a later email to the University, which all contained false statements.
Mr Nguyen also pleaded guilty to one charge of unsatisfactory professional conduct for failing to formally notify the Victorian Legal Services Board that he had been charged by the police with two indictable offences – committing perjury and forgery.
In handing down its decision, VCAT said:
‘Integrity and honesty are both the most indispensable necessities for a legal practitioner. Fraud connected with any action of a practitioner clearly is a grave offence against that obligation of integrity and honesty.’
VCAT ordered that Mr Nguyen be banned from legal practice for 22 months, and afterwards be restricted to practising as an employee for a period of 24 months. Mr Nguyen was also ordered to pay the Commissioner’s costs of $8,323, and complete six additional continuing professional development units related to ethics and professional conduct.
For further information download the VCAT decision.