The Legal Profession Act 2007 (“Act”) established the Legal Services Commission as the sole body responsible for receiving and managing the investigation of complaints about the conduct of lawyers and law practice employees (referred to as the respondent in a disciplinary case).
When the Commissioner decides to commence disciplinary action, the matter goes to a hearing before either the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or the Legal Practice Committee (see the Fact Sheet Discipline Applications on our website). If you brought the original complaint to the Commission, you may be asked to provide an affidavit (see Common Questions below) and attend the hearing as a witness.
Prior to the hearing you will be contacted by the Commission to make arrangements and to discuss any concerns or special needs.
Hearings start at either 9.30 am or 10 am. If you are giving evidence the Commission will usually arrange for someone to meet you at the QCAT or Committee.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal hears discipline applications at Level 9, Bank of Queensland Building, 259 Queen Street, Brisbane
The Committee hears discipline applications in several court locations around Brisbane.
In the courtroom you will see the QCAT or Committee sitting at the front facing the bar table and public gallery. The Commission’s lawyers and the respondent (and possibly their lawyers) will be sitting at the bar table.
At the hearing the Commission goes first. The hearing may start with an opening address by the Commission’s lawyers which presents a short summary of the evidence expected to be heard in more detail during the case.
Note: If you are attending court as a witness, you will be asked to leave the hearing room for the opening address. This is to ensure the opening address does not influence your evidence.
After the opening address, the Commission’s lawyer will call any witnesses to give oral evidence in support of their affidavit.
A Commission legal officer will come outside and call your name. The officer will then take you into the courtroom.
Note: When appearing in QCAT, bow to the judge when entering and leaving the hearing room as a traditional mark of respect.
The officer will escort you to the witness box.
In the witness box you will be asked to take an oath or to affirm that the evidence you give will be the truth. If you take an oath you will be asked to place your hand on the Bible or Koran, according to your preference. You will then be administered the oath.
Contact the Commission as soon as possible if you have:
- difficulty speaking or understanding English OR
- a disability or special needs when giving evidence.
The Commission will arrange for an interpreter or other assistance.
Your affidavit is called your evidence in chief and will already have been presented to the QCAT or Committee. In most cases you will simply be asked by the Commission’s lawyers whether or not there are any amendments or additions to be made to your affidavit and to confirm the accuracy of the contents.
Once you have given your evidence, the respondent’s lawyers will have an opportunity to question you. This process is called cross-examination. The respondent’s lawyer will ask you questions about what you have stated in your affidavit and any other matters relevant to the case. If your answers cause confusion, the Commission’s lawyer may ask you some more questions to clarify matters. This is known as re-examination.
The members of QCAT and Committee may also ask you questions.
Exhibits and evidence
During the course of the hearing, the Commission’s lawyer or the respondent’s lawyer may submit documents or other items into evidence as part of the case. Those items are then called exhibits and become part of the evidence. Exhibits may include photographs, invoices, contracts and similar items that relate to the case. You may be asked to explain or comment upon an exhibit.
Leaving the witness box
After you have finished giving evidence you will be excused from the witness box. You are then free to leave the hearing room or sit in the public gallery and observe the rest of the hearing.
At the end of the Commission’s case, the respondent may also call witnesses. Just like the Commissioner, the respondent then has an opportunity to put their case by calling witnesses and tendering documents which rebut the complaint against them.
At the conclusion of the respondent’s case, final submissions will be made by each party.
The QCAT or Committee will then consider the evidence. A decision may be made on the same day the hearing finishes but usually, a disciplinary body may take some weeks before notifying the parties of their decision.
When a decision is made you will be advised of the result and the amount of any compensation (see Fact Sheet 4, Compensation Orders). The decision will usually be in writing. You don’t need to attend court on this date. You will be advised of the outcome in writing by the Commission. Your letter will include a copy of the decision.
Who is a witness?
A witness is generally you (the complainant), the person who filed the original complaint with the Commission, or another person who has evidence which may assist the Commission’s case.
What is the role of the witness?
The witness provides evidence to either the QCAT or Committee. Your evidence in both the Committee and QCAT is initially presented as an affidavit. Then you may be required to give oral evidence.
What is an affidavit?
An affidavit is a document setting out your evidence in writing. You make it under oath. If you are required to be a witness, the Commission’s staff will contact you to obtain an affidavit.
In your affidavit, you provide facts from your direct experience of the events and circumstances of the case.
When your affidavit is complete:
Your affidavit becomes part of the Commission’s case and may be filed with the appropriate registry. As soon as your affidavit is filed it becomes a public document and may be inspected by any third party.
What if I can’t attend the hearing?
If you live outside the Brisbane metropolitan area, the hearing may be conducted by telephone. This is entirely at the discretion of the QCAT or Committee.
If you are required to appear as a witness, you may be paid in accordance with a set scale as a contribution towards travelling and related expenses.
When giving evidence remember:
- Be honest.
- Listen very carefully to each question and consider what is being asked before you give your answer.
- If you do not understand a question, say so.
- Take your time and give a complete answer.
- Do not guess. If you’re not sure about an answer, just say so.
- Do not say what someone has told you unless you are specifically asked.
- Speak clearly so that your evidence can be easily understood. There is a microphone in front of you but it only records your voice for a legal transcript, it does not make it louder
Note: Don’t let the formal language and surroundings make you feel uneasy or intimidated. Just be yourself.
The Commissioner, the respondent or the Attorney-General may appeal the decision of the QCAT to the Court of Appeal.
The respondent or the Commissioner may appeal a decision by the Committee to the QCAT.