Disciplinary & Misconduct Investigations

It is said that professions carry prestige on the part of the holders because it allows them to practice a profession in public and enjoy the monetary benefits that other non-professional trades are not privileged with. However, such professions come with responsibilities that one must undertake. Failure to fulfill them may result in the loss of one’s income and hard-earned profession. Below we will discuss disciplinary and misconduct investigations for two professions.

In Queensland, laws such as the Legal Profession Act of 2007 covers lawyers whilst the Public Service Act of 2008 provides the legislative guidelines for the employment and management of public service employees and public service administration, and the Professional Engineers Act of 2002 covers engineers. Although different legislations prescribe rules for each specific profession, they all agree on behaviours that warrant disciplinary or investigation actions. For the sake of brevity, the rest of this page will focus on two professions – lawyers and engineers — although there are other proceedings that are specific to other professions.

Disciplinary & Misconduct Investigations or Proceedings for Lawyers

The Legal Profession Act of 2007 prescribes the foundations of what constitutes the legal profession and the regulations. The Queensland Legal Service Commission (LSC) handles the complaints lodged against lawyers.

Types of Complaints Against Lawyers

The first type of complaint is the conduct complaint, which involves behavioural complaints such as bullying, cyber bullying, sexual harassment, conflict of interest, fraud, dishonesty, and misleading of the client or the court among others. The second is the consumer complaint, which includes the consistent failure to deliver reasonable service; excessive professional charges; unreasonable delays; deliberate malpractice; and the conduct of sub-par services.

Complaint Proceedings

You can file a complaint against a legal professional, provided that you complete the requirements, such as the filled-out complaint form (downloadable from the Queensland government site); an explanation of the evidences provided; and the provision of your contact information – email address and telephone or mobile number. The LSC itself can launch its own investigation even without complainants, provided they have evidences that prove the misconduct beyond reasonable doubt.

The LSC handles the complaint through three initial steps, namely the receipt of the inquiry, receipt of the complaint, and the initiation of its own motion investigation.
The complaint can be resolved through a settlement, but if you are not satisfied with the informal proceedings, you may be advised to file a complaint with the LSC. Depending on the outcome of its assessment, the LSC may either dismiss the complaint or mediate between the complainant and the defendant in non-serious cases.

If the LSC does not receive any complaint, it will start its own investigation, and if it finds sufficient evidence for a complaint against a professional, it will bring the case to the next step, which is to investigate the complaint. At this point, the LSC and the Bar Association of Queensland (BAQ) will conduct an investigation and If there are sufficient and satisfactory results from the investigations, then the proceedings will move to the next level where the LSC decides whether to dismiss the complaint or to commence the prosecution proceedings.

If the plaintiff loses the case, they can appeal the decision at the Courts of Appeal. On the other hand, if the LSC and the BAQ find the defendant lawyer guilty beyond reasonable doubt, then he or she may be suspended, fined, or in very severe cases, disbarred.

Disciplinary & Misconduct Investigations/Proceedings for professional engineers

Just like lawyers, professional engineers are regulated under Queensland’s Professional Engineers Act of 2002. The Board of Professional Engineers of Australia (BPEQ), a regulatory body under the Queensland government that regulates the profession, and the non-government organisation, Engineers Australia, may conduct their own investigations or receive a complaint, although the Magistrate’s Court makes the decision on the most severe cases.

Complaints against engineers include overcharging; the provision of subpar or misleading services, and verbal threats. In this case, you can make a complaint against them, provided that you can do the following:

  1. Fill up the complaint in writing, whether electronically or in paper.
  2. Fill up a complaint form.
  3. Provide pieces of evidence that are supported by documents, which can be in either soft or hard copies. These evidences may be a photograph, a voice or video recording, or a receipt.
  4. Once you have completed the first procedure, you can then send the complaint to the BPEQ.

The BPEQ will start the investigation proceedings after they receive your complaint. At this point, depending on the outcome of the proceedings, the BPEQ may caution and reprimand in non-serious cases. However, if the complaint comprises more serious offences, then the BPEQ will take the case to the Magistrate’s Court. Furthermore, if the BPEQ decides to discipline a contravening member, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) will handle the disciplinary proceedings. On the other hand, the Board can dismiss the case if there is no sufficient evidence.

The Magistrate’s Court of Queensland will decide on the case, based on the evidence filed by the complainants and their lawyers. If the plaintiff wins, then they receive financial payment and the defendant engineers may be stripped of their titles. On the other hand, if the plaintiff loses, then the case is dismissed. The defendant engineer may also file a counter lawsuit if they feel they have been wronged. Regardless of the court’s decision, both parties can make an appeal.

The process for conducting disciplinary/misconduct investigations or proceedings is a process that ensures a fair investigation for both complainant and the defendant. As a complaining client, you have the right to file a complaint against the person who has wronged you, as well as to efficient and professional services. As a defendant, you have the right to defend yourself against false accusations, as well as to an unbiased trial.

If you have any questions relating to disciplinary & misconduct investigations, don’t hesitate to reach out to FCLawyers for expert legal advice.

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