by Tim O’Dwyer M.A., LL.B Queensland Solicitor & Consumer Advocate firstname.lastname@example.org
Solicitor Anthony Butler, 37, has been found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct by Queensland’s Legal Practice Committee, fined $1,500 and ordered to pay costs of $2,000. Mr Butler, at present a consultant with Surfers Paradise solicitors Freestone & Kummick, was charged by the Legal Services Commission after contravening Section 368B of the Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act 2000.
While a partner in the now defunct Cavill Avenue firm of Butler & Clements, Mr Butler failed to provide Certificates of Independence to clients in 178 conveyancing matters between January 2003 and January 2004. In each transaction the selling agent NoLimit Realty Pty Ltd referred unwitting buyers to Butler’s firm. Conveyancing solicitors are required by Section 365B to certify whether or not they are independent and to disclose to buyer clients business, family or other relationships they may have with anyone involved in the particular sale. This Section was included in amendments brought in by the Beattie Government in 2001 to try to stamp out Queensland’s then notorious two-tier marketeering scams. Despite these laws, overpriced property racketeering continues unabated – particularly on the Gold Coast – with panels of less-than-independent solicitors happily accepting referrals of novice investor clients.
The action against Mr Butler resulted from complaints made to the Queensland Law Society and to the Office of Fair Trading in October 2003 by Victorians, Rod Dinan and Gabby Tadesco. These out-of-towners were referred to Butler & Clements for their purchase of an off-the-plan townhouse marketed as a NoLimit lifestyle investment. When the couple suspected a scam, they contacted consumer advocate Neil Jenman who recommended they urgently obtain independent legal advice. Their contract was soon successfully cancelled.