Queensland Law Society

President's Update


There have been some new and significant developments in the practice of criminal law.

Firstly, there has been a shift in procedure for criminal matters, with Justice Boddice confirming that, when an accused person’s matter has been listed for trial, and it resolves to a sentence, the sentence hearing is to occur at that point – the time when the matter was listed for trial.

Solicitors should ensure that they have all material available and ready to proceed to make submissions on sentence, for example, pre-sentence reports and medical or associated reports.

Secondly, the Court of Appeal decision in R v Pham suggests a seismic shift in the way co-defendants will be represented, with the virtual elimination of the option for a single firm to represent some or all co-accused.

In the decision, delivered on 21 March, then Court of Appeal President Justice Margaret McMurdo AC said (at [60]):

“The practice is apt to undermine public confidence in the legal profession and should be discouraged. Unless there is no possibility of a conflict existing or emerging, and such cases will be rare, co-defendants should have separate legal representation. These observations apply equally to solicitors and barristers. If legal practitioners persist in acting for co-defendants, they must be assiduous in meeting their arising ethical responsibilities.” [footnote omitted].

I am grateful to the chair of our Criminal Law Committee, Peter Shields, for bringing these matters to our attention, as they will certainly have ramifications for many of our members. We are looking further into these developments and will bring members some specific guidance as soon as possible.

The big news over the past week has been the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie, with many of our members affected by damage through rain, wind or flooding at their homes or offices.

I will be meeting with the presidents of the Gold Coast Law Association and Logan and Scenic Rim Law Association this week for an on-site inspection of the damage caused by this disaster and talks on how QLS can best provide assistance to those members in need.

Next week, I will be visiting central and northern Queensland to meet with our DLAs and to offer further assistance.

Cyclone Debbie has affected all of us in some way. I am grateful that in my case it was limited to rainwater leaking into my house, but many have not been so fortunate.

This weather event certainly disrupted our lives, and I can only hope that we are all able to resume our normal routines with a minimum of fuss.

Returning to legal affairs, I will soon be speaking at three significant swearing-in ceremonies. Tomorrow, incoming President of the Court of Appeal Walter Sofronoff QC will be welcomed at a Banco Court ceremony, while on Wednesday 12 April, the judges of the District Court will welcome Judge Catherine Muir into their midst at the Southport District Court. And on Monday 15 May, Roger Derrington QC will be sworn in as a judge of the Federal Court in Brisbane.


Christine Smyth

QLS president