The 16 lawyers struck off in Qld in past two years

 

A SOLICITOR will be struck off for forging an estate executor's signature and attempting to speed up the money being distributed to his girlfriend, who was a beneficiary in the latest of a long line of legal eagles falling foul of their duties.

Talk of the Town understands Travis Keith Sturgeon also sent documents falsely claiming one of the beneficiaries had a terminal illness and urgently needed estate money to start treatment.

The former Cairns solicitor will become the 16th lawyer to be struck off the legal roll in Queensland in the last two years, after a tribunal order this week.

While representing estate executor Heather Downs, in the administration of an estate in 2015 and 2016, Sturgeon forged her signature on documents five times, the tribunal heard.

He used scanned copies of his client's signature, attaching it to documents he sent, authorising an aged care group and a bank to release the deceased man's money.

The solicitor, who now works for a South Australian union law firm, also falsely signed that he had witnessed Ms Downs's signature.

Sturgeon, then working for Miller Harris Lawyers in Cairns, also forged her signature to get the firm to release estate money from its trust account.

He falsely told a law firm partner that Ms Downs was his house guest and could come to the office to sign a document, then said she had left.

The Legal Services Commission said Sturgeon deliberately tried to hasten the distribution of estate funds while in a long-term, intimate relationship with one of the beneficiaries.

Around that time, Sturgeon had signed a contract to buy a house for $850,000 and he and the beneficiary obtained a $600,000 loan, secured by mortgages on that and another property.

The LSC brought 12 disciplinary charges against Sturgeon, who did not contest them.

On Monday the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal recommended his name be removed from the legal practitioners's roll.

THE SHAME FILE
FIFTEEN Queensland solicitors, including Mr Sturgeon, and one Brisbane barrister have been shamed by being struck off the state's legal practitioners' roll in the last two years.

Acting Legal Services Commissioner Robert Brittan, who brought disciplinary proceedings against the lawyers, said he was "appalled at this behaviour''.

Former Queensland magistrate William John Randall, who was jailed for nine years for child sex offences almost two years ago, was struck off as a solicitor in August.

Gold Coast solicitor Robin Slipper, who took more than a million dollars from a dead client's estate and overcharged others by thousands, was struck off in July.

Former Billabong surfwear boss Matthew Perrin, who in 2017 was sentenced to eight years in jail for fraud and forgery, but was released in June, also was struck off in July.

Solicitor Melvin Tay, who pleaded guilty to aggravated fraud totalling $93,000 in March, last year, was also struck off in February. He had gambled with some of the money.

Tim Meehan, a high-profile criminal lawyer and ex-Bosscher Lawyers partner who served a jail term for aggravated fraud, also was struck off in February.

Margaret Rimmer, former principal of Maleny Law, who was jailed for $890,000 worth of fraud, after she took money from vulnerable and elderly clients' trust accounts, was struck off in February.

Michelle Rosena Beatty, a solicitor until 2017, was struck off in February for failing four times to respond to the LSC's written notices.

Brisbane solicitor Keith Sullivan, who arranged for hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper payments to be paid to his wife's business by his law firm, was struck off in January.

McInnes Wilson terminated his employment in 2014, after becoming aware of his conduct.

Former Gladstone lawyer David McHenry was struck off in December, for pretending to progress clients' claims, but doing nothing, and forging documents.

Michael James Quinn, a sole practitioner, was struck off in July, last year, as a result of his 2017 conviction and 12-month suspended jail sentence for $30,000 worth of trust account fraud.

In the same month, solicitor Lindsay Terence Lawrencewas struck off over his poor conduct of litigation for a client and failing to comply with trust account external examination requirements.

Former law firm partner Gary Robert Woodman, who was sentenced to a suspended jail term for using the internet to procure a child and child grooming, was struck off in May last year.

Penelope Corbett was struck off in February, last year, for failing to show up to pay for a client's settlement, causing its delay, and not repaying a trust account almost $19,000.

Brisbane barrister Grant Reuben Forward, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years' jail for fraud, after pocketing a client's $89,300 compensation payout, was struck off in May, last year.

Harold Shand, who was jailed in 2011 for arranging a $60,000 corrupt payment to former state government minister Gordon Nuttall, was struck off in April, last year, after an LSC appeal.

"I will continue to undertake discipline action where such conduct comes to my attention so that the public can have confidence that only fit and proper persons are able to practise as lawyers,'' Mr Brittan said.

"The courts need to ensure that practitioners maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity.''

They should all know better.