Struck off Solicitor Fails to be Re-registered as a Migration Agent
In Seymour v MARA  FCAFC 76 (4.6.07), a former solicitor failed before the Full Federal Court to overturn a decision by MARA not to re-register him. Here are the facts of the case:
2 Mr Seymour was formerly a solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW. In 1982 he was found guilty of professional misconduct and struck off the roll. He remained struck off when his application for registration as a migration agent was granted by MARA’s predecessor, the Migration Agents Registration Board (“the Board”), in 1994. When he applied for registration Mr Seymour failed to disclose to the Board that, in 1990, he had been convicted of a drink driving offence. Shortly after he was registered he agreed to an order (“the 1994 order”) being made by the Supreme Court of New South Wales that he would not in future act or purport to act as a solicitor. In June 04 Mr Seymour pleaded guilty to having committed a contempt of Court. It was alleged that Mr Seymour had breached the 1994 order by undertaking conveyancing work. Buddin J convicted Mr Seymour and sentenced him to imprisonment for nine months (“the 2004 conviction”). The execution of the sentence was suspended upon condition that he entered into a good behaviour bond for the period of nine months. This nine month period was still current when, on 14.2.05, MARA purported to make the decision to refuse Mr Seymour’s application for registration for a further period. Mr Seymour failed to advise MARA that the contempt proceeding was pending or that he had been convicted and sentenced. In his application for “repeat registration” dated 1.5.04 he advised MARA that there had been no previous finding of guilt of a criminal offence of which he had not advised MARA and that he was not currently the subject of any criminal proceedings.
3 MARA was led to its negative conclusion as to Mr Seymour’s fitness and propriety by the following considerations:
• His failure to disclose a conviction for drink driving when he originally applied for registration in 1993; and
• His making of a declaration to MARA in 2004 that he was not the subject of any criminal proceeding when in fact he was; and
• His failure to notify MARA that he had been convicted of an offence by Buddin J; and
• The conduct which led to him being convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 9 months in 2004.
The applicant had argued that since the earlier Board knew he had been struck off as a solicitor, these facts were irrelevant to his current application for re-registration. But the Full Federal Court pointed out that even if a person had been forgiven for earlier transgressions, any re-offending allows MARA to review the totality of the person’s history. The court noted:
Moreover, subsequent events, such as the 2004 conviction, may well lead a decision-maker, as it did in this case, to review an applicant’s history. The Tribunal did not revive the 1982 striking-off decision in isolation. It did so as a logical starting-point for examining the 1994 Court order and the 2004 conviction for its breach. Together these events indicated that Mr Seymour had acted as a solicitor despite being struck off the roll and agreeing to orders that he should not so act again. He thereby demonstrated a willingness to disregard Court orders and the law regulating legal practitioners.