Queensland Corruption and Integrity Update – March 2023

13 April 2023
Daniel Maroske, Partner, Brisbane

This month’s edition of the Corruption and Integrity Update considers the latest report on the implementation of recommendations arising from the Commission of Inquiry into the Crime and Corruption Commission, the review of the QCAT Act, an appeal on the basis of the Queensland DNA Inquiry, an application for a permanent stay of corruption proceedings, and the most recent decisions of the Councillor Conduct Tribunal. Finally, we take a look at a recent instance of ‘fake lawyering’.

Quarterly Report No. 2 on the implementation of Commission of Inquiry recommendations

As detailed in our ‘Corruption and Integrity Update – November 2022’, the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has committed to implementing the 32 recommendations handed down in the final report arising from the ‘Commission of Inquiry relating to the Crime and Corruption Commission’.

The CCC has recently released its second quarterly report (Report No. 2) on the implementation and delivery of these 32 recommendations.

The previous reported highlighted that the implementation and delivery of five recommendations had been completed. Report No. 2 provides an update on a further three recommendations, notably:

  • The establishment of the Corruption Investigations Governance Committee (Recommendation 19);
  • The establishment of the Corruption Investigations and Prevention Group (Recommendation 20); and
  • Funding for a Policy & Procurement Officer (Recommendation 23).

The CCC will continue to publish quarterly reports relating to the progress of the implementation and delivery of the 32 recommendations.

Additionally, the CCC recently put out a tender for consultation relating to the current state of the CCC Corruption function, stemming from the Commission of Inquiry. Tenders closed on 4 April 2023.

Review of the QCAT Act

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), established in 2009, is set to undergo a statutory review of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) (QCAT Act). It is reported that QCAT has been experiencing workload pressure due to increased demand for its services, increased complexity in matters and jurisdictions and budgetary constraints.

In accordance with its Terms of Reference, this statutory review aims to decide whether the objects of the QCAT Act remain valid and are meeting its objectives. The review will decide whether the provisions of the QCAT Act are appropriate for meeting its objects and investigate any specific issue recommended by the Minister or the QCAT President, including, for example, whether any provision of an enabling Act affects the effective operation of the tribunal.

The review will be conducted by a review team within the Department of Justice and Attorney-General and overseen by a government steering committee. A consultation paper will be released to the public by mid-April 2023, welcoming written submissions from the interested stakeholders. The review team will provide the Minister with a report on the review in early 2024, with a view to having the review completed and table the recommendations as soon as practicable.

Appeal launched on the basis of DNA Inquiry

Recent editions of the Corruption and Integrity Update have followed the findings of The Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing in Queensland. As we have previously explored, the report released by Commissioner Walter Sofronoff KC provided damning findings outlining the failure of Queensland’s DNA lab. As a result of the findings, it is expected that there may be thousands of cases impacted.

Mr Andrew Cobby, who was found guilty of murdering his estranged wife in November 2021, is set to be the first convicted criminal to use the filings of the lab to seek an appeal. Mr Cobby’s appeal is on the basis of re-tested DNA samples that returned a DNA-link from an unidentified individual.

The appeal itself could open the floodgates for others who have been convicted on the basis of DNA findings to seek an appeal.

R v Pinzone; Di Carlo [2023] QDCPR 8

Mr Christopher Pinzone is charged with one count of for allegedly offering Mr Paul Pisasale (former Mayor of Ipswich City Council) certain benefits in return for the promotion of a property development proposal. The above proceeding relates to a pre-trial application for a permanent stay of the indictment brought by Mr Pinzone.

The permanent stay of the proceedings was sought (and dismissed) for the following reasons:

  1. CCC offered Mr Pinzone amnesty: Mr Pinzone stated he was offered ‘amnesty’ by the CCC for any incriminating statement during the CCC’s examination. The Court rejected this argument as Mr Pinzone was legally represented and should have been aware that the CCC could not make such a promise, as it was a matter for the Attorney-General.
  2. Charging officer essentially coerced by CCC: Mr Pinzone argued he was charged without a proper foundation for the decision to charge, and the QPS officer acted under the direction of the CCC who held ‘ulterior purposes’ for his arrest. The Court rejected this argument as the ‘ulterior purpose’ alleged was not made out, and the Court was satisfied after the charging officer’s cross-examination that he made an independent and reasonable decision to charge.
  3. DPP unable to comply with prosecutorial duties: Mr Pinzone argued the separation of the trial prosecutor from coerced material made it impossible for the prosecutor to carry out their role. This was dismissed by the Court as a “‘prosecutorial team’ is the solution where an investigation includes inadmissible coerced evidence.”
  4. Undermining of public confidence in the administration of justice: Mr Pinzone argued that the role of a barrister acting on behalf of the CCC was compromised given separate instructions to appear for Mr Pisasale on a charge of extortion. This argument was rejected as Mr Pinzone was not involved in any circumstances that lead to the extortion charge.
  5. Prosecution was doomed to fail: the Court swiftly rejected this argument, noting that it is not the law that because the case is circumstantial it is necessary for the prosecution to exclude beyond reasonable doubt an inference consistent with innocence.
  6. DPP used or is using coerced witness material: it was submitted that the CCC officers who took witness statements could remind witnesses of their coercive statements and determine the appropriateness of the evidence. The Court found that the proper time to test the evidence of a witness was at the trial of the charge.

Councillor Conduct Tribunal Decision

On 24 March 2023, the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) released its decision and reasons relating to Councillor Bob Manning of Cairns Regional Council and allegations of misconduct, with 23 of the 24 allegations being sustained.

The allegations varied, but largely related to allegations of breach of trust and failure to act consistently with the local government principles in section 4 (2)(a) of the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld), and various conflicts of interest, all of which arose in the 2012 to 2016 period.

The CCT ultimately found that the Councillor engaged in misconduct pursuant to section 150AR of the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld) and ordered that, within 60 days of the Order:

  1. Manning make an admission that he engaged in misconduct during a General Meeting of Council at a time that the meeting is open to the public; and
  2. that Cr Manning pay the local government $250.

Fake lawyer under investigation in Queensland

Mr Alexander Pinnock, also running under the pseudonyms ‘Alec Stuart’ and ‘Alec Anton Stuart’, is currently under investigation by the Queensland Law Society after being charged in New South Wales for allegedly misrepresenting himself as a qualified legal practitioner, and for engaging in legal practice without the required qualifications.[1]

The Legal Profession Act 2007 (Cth) provides:

A person must not engage in legal practice in this jurisdiction unless the person is an Australian legal practitioner. Maximum penalty – 300 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment.[2]

Mr Pinnock allegedly made several representations and publicly advertised himself, under various names, as a qualified legal practitioner in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria as well as the American Bar Association. It is alleged Mr Pinnock was never admitted or qualified as a legal practitioner in any state of Australia or the United States. Although Mr Pinnock appears to have no legal qualifications, he allegedly appeared at the Coffs Harbour Local Court as a ‘Partner’ at ‘Sydney Lawyers’.

At Gadens, we have extensive experience assisting clients in responding to both CCC and OIA investigations and hearings.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Daniel Maroske, Director or Angela Szczepanski, Director should you require any assistance in corruption or integrity matters or if you would like to arrange a presentation on investigations and hearings with your organisation.

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Authored by:
Daniel Maroske, Director
Angela Szczepanski, Director

[1] Legal Profession Act 2004 No 112 (NSW) ss 14, 15.

[2] Section 24.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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