Solicitor struck off for misconduct
A FORMER Gladstone solicitor who fooled clients for years that he was progressing their claims, but did nothing, and who forged documents, has been struck off for professional misconduct.
But seven of David McHenry's angry former Gladstone clients are still waiting for a Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision about their compensation claims.
QCAT judicial member Peter Lyons QC said McHenry "failed grossly'' to perform his obligations to protect and advance his clients' interests.
He lied about the actions he had taken on behalf of clients and their success and in some cases he produced forged documents to bolster his dishonest statements.
Mr Lyons said his conduct would be regarded as "disgraceful or dishonorable'' by his professional colleagues of good repute. David McHenry used elaborate excuses, even twice paying for one client to fly with him to Brisbane, where he took him into a court, falsely telling him the judge was doing his case.
He even pointed to another man in court, telling the client, Dennis Stanley: "That's the guy who will put your money in the bank, give him a wave''.
McHenry later told Mr Stanley that he had been awarded $225,000, but then claimed there had been a dispute with Centrelink, before later saying he had obtained a deed of settlement.
QCAT found it was a sham document produced by McHenry to cover up his lack of action.
In 2016, McHenry told Mr Stanley that $412,000 would be put into his building society account, as compensation resulting from several of his claims.
He then told him the money was coming in an Armaguard truck from Brisbane to Glastone, but said "once the truck got to Gympie it got lost''.
McHenry had not filed any claims, QCAT found.
McHenry had his own Gladstone law firm before his practising certificate was cancelled in March, 2017, after the Legal Services Commissioner brought 30 disciplinary charges against him on behalf of nine complainants.
An injunction was issued in December that year, restraining him from engaging in legal practice.
Over eight years McHenry failed to take any action to progress his client, Gladstone plasterer Terry Orth's claim against insurer Colonial Mutual over his income protection policy.
McHenry then lied to Mr Orth, Shine Lawyers and to the Queensland Law Society to hide this failure, QCAT judicial member Peter Lyons QC found.
"I had depression because people had let me down and this just made it all worse,'' Mr Orth said today, after hearing of the decision.
"He doesn't deserve to have the privilege of acting for someone. I went to see him in 2004 and I had to wait until 2012 to find out he was lying to me.''
Mr Lyons said it was a "gross failure'' to perform his duty to pursue Mr Orth's claim.
McHenry falsely told Nigel Jones that he had been awarded $190,000 in damages over a personal injury claim, and the money was on the way in an armoured car.
He then made up excuses why the money had not arrived, including that the person who had to pay it had been made bankrupt.
He even produced a sham application for his appointment as trustee of a bankrupt estate.
But there had been no court decision and the LSC could not find any court record of the proceedings even being filed by McHenry.
Mr Lyons said McHenry's communications to his client were "an extraordinary series of lies, a fantastical construction'' of events to cover it up.
In relation to client Paul Lastavec's claim, in 2017 McHenry falsely told another solicitor that Mr Lastavec had been awarded $190,000.
But the solicitor found out there had been no judgment and nothing had occurred in court in relation to the claim since 2015.
In 2017, McHenry forged a document purporting to be orders of Judge Demack of the Federal Circuit Court in relation to Family Court proceedings for a client, the tribunal found.
Over four years, McHenry did nothing to progress Kelly Hodgetts' case over the sale to her of faulty jet skis, but told her there had been a $50,000 judgment, but there were delays in enforcing it.
The tribunal found McHenry perpetrated an elaborate hoax on siblings Jodie Harris and Bradley Pearce, over their claim against their late father's estate, over more than three years.
He forged documents, including a court summons, a grant of probate, emails from banks and a barrister to "support his dishonest conduct'', the tribunal found.
The tribunal adjourned the determination of compensation claims.