Posted by admin on 05/12/11 in Featured, McGee: South Australia Legal Practitioners Conduct Board
Adelaide Advertiser: John Rau reviews ruling on hit-run lawyer Eugene McGee (12 May 2011)
ATTORNEY-General John Rau is personally reviewing a tribunal’s refusal to punish hit-run lawyer Eugene McGee after an appeal.
The Legal Practitioners Conduct Board last month ruled McGee, who killed cyclist Ian Humphrey in 2003 and fled the scene, was not guilty of “infamous” conduct and could continue practising.
The decision was believed to be the final failed option in Di Gilcrist-Humphrey’s eight-year attempt for justice.
It can be revealed, however, that Ms Gilcrist-Humphrey’s supporters have discovered a separate avenue for appeal to a higher regulator, which requires state government backing.
Correspondence obtained by The Advertiser shows Mr Rau has demanded the Board hand over for review all evidence it considered before absolving McGee.
Another watchdog – the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal – can also take action.
State law dictates a charge can only be brought by the Attorney-General, or with his permission, if it comes five years or more after an alleged incident of “unprofessional” or “unsatisfactory” conduct.
Opposition justice spokesman Stephen Wade and independent Senator Nick Xenophon are demanding Mr Rau take immediate action and challenged the integrity of the Board’s ruling.
Mr Rau has written to Board Presiding Member Tony Abbott requesting “a copy of all the material that was before the Board in the course of its investigation” and transcript of deliberations.
Senator Xenophon has separately written to the State Government on Ms Gilcrist-Humphrey’s behalf requesting a charge be laid with the Tribunal.
In a statement yesterday, Ms Gilcrist-Humphrey said she was disappointed with the Government’s recent response to the case.
“When there were votes associated with this matter before the 2006 election, the Government were saying all the right things,” she said.
“But since that time they have been very passive to the point of effectively wiping their hands of this issue. The Government’s inaction has left me feeling betrayed because Mike Rann made promises back then that now seem incredibly hollow. This has added to the pain. It has impacted on our trust and our belief that the system is based on justice and integrity.”
She has previously branded the Board an “old boys’ club” and its decision a whitewash.
Mr Rau yesterday conceded high public interest in the case prompted the review but insisted it would not cloud his deliberations.
He has not ruled laying a charge with the Tribunal should the review uphold the Board’s determination.
“What I’m trying to ascertain is whether having had a look at the material that’s before the Board … it seems they have made an error in the way they have applied the law,” Mr Rau said.
“Mr McGee needs to be dealt with according to the law as does every other citizen, whatever we might think of his behaviour.
“If, hypothetically, they had made an error of law in the way they dealt with the matter, then that would obviously be something that would be significant.”
The review will be treated with high priority and is expected to be complete later this month.
Senator Xenophon said the ball was now in the Government’s court.
“The Board’s decision was a disgrace,” he said.
Mr Wade said he had serious concerns over the integrity of the Board ruling.
In 2003, McGee hit and killed Mr Humphrey on Kapunda Rd. He subsequently fled the scene and evaded police before handing himself in hours later. The only penalty McGee has received is a $3100 fine for driving without due care.