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With all due respect?

Every Issue

Cite as: October 2009 83(10) LIJ, p88

Gambling on a good line

Plenty of wags believe an experienced legal eagle may have missed his calling after this snappy set-up during a WorkCover case in a regional courthouse.

Paul Scanlon QC was representing the hire company of a shearer who injured his back when, of all things, shaving a spirited alpaca.

The court heard the man was hired to shear sheep but was asked by the farmer to shear a few alpacas - despite being untrained to do so.

The man found it hard to handle the feisty beast and suffered a back injury.

He was awarded $200,000 damages to be paid by the owner of the beast.

Warming to the task, Mr Scanlon asked the snipper a series of questions while he was on the stand to understand what had occurred in the lead-up to the mishap.

The shearer agreed that if an alpaca became a bit rambunctious you responded by holding them tightly.

And, Mr Scanlon asked, if they are still unruly would you have to fold their limbs while maintaining the secure grip.

"Yes, I suppose," said the pruner.

The man then agreed with the third question that, if they became even feistier, you needed to walk away from the job at hand and return to the beast later in the hope it had calmed down.

A spy told us Mr Scanlon then sent the courtroom into hysterics after summing up the exchange in this way:

"So, basically, what you're telling me is that you have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when it's best to walk away and know when to run," he said.

"But the problem is you could not count your money when the shearing was done because you were injured."


Accountants can be magical people who, at times, take a lot of old receipts and actually turn them into paper money.

The really good ones have the most dedicated of clientele who swear by their skills and return financial year after financial year.

However, a Queensland court reporter has told WADR of a tale so scary we are inclined to tempt fate by taking full responsibility for our actions by filing our individual tax return online this year unaided.

As he tells it, Joey "the Tattler" Smith was diligently scrutinising the Courts List before 10am recently in the hope of finding something to titillate his consumers when he spied a name that exactly mirrored that of his accountant.

This prompted the Tattler to think that his accountant had a very common name, and then reminisce about the man's great deeds with a balance sheet.

However, he was shocked back into reality when he saw the defendant was facing tax fraud charges.

Quickly forgetting everything else he had seen on the Courts List, our correspondent snuck into the back of Court 3 and waited, sweating, for the matter to be called.

He was filled with horror as his man's bulky frame entered the room.

The facts of the case, to which there was a guilty plea, were read out and it transpired authorities had nabbed the accountant over-stating the value of his office equipment . . . to the tune of $280,000.

Thankfully for the Tattler there was no mention of individual tax returns but, needless to say, the accountant is now doing time.

"He is a man who knew the ABCs of what media types could claim and, as a result, had a merry band of journalists on the books. He will be sorely missed," the Tattler told WADR.

Soon after, it was with some trepidation the journalist, in the process of seeking a new accountant, decided to call the firm where his man had worked to enlist his former partner.

The receptionist told our trusting friend the partner was on a break and would not be undertaking any personal tax matters for some time.

Miss Demeanour's guide to life, love, law and disorder

Dear Miss Demeanour,

I didn't get a pay rise on 1 July, so things are tight: I've begged from my parents, borrowed from my friends, and stolen (that's "permanently borrowed" to the Legal Services Board) a little cash from my grandfather who can't remember what day it is. Anyway, thanks to a little splurge on the pokies last weekend - apparently that's what you do at a hen's night in certain suburbs of this fair city - my bank account is now showing a healthy balance. Am I ethically obliged to repay everyone?

Regards, Miss Guided

Dear Miss Guided

I bet your grandfather banged on that life wasn't meant to be easy just prior to you fleecing him. My oath it wasn't: a designer outfit for casual Fridays at my firm can take up the best part of a pay packet.

As for your question, you've kind of boxed me in by saying "ethically obliged". Having run that quaint phrase through, the answer is yes.

But a lawyer's duty is to follow the law, not social mores. The Trustee Act, for example, provides a mechanism for advertising publicly for creditors of a trust. You advertise, wait a set period of time, and then the trust is only liable to pay those creditors who have made contact. It's rather the same here. After all, your parents, friends and that dear demented gent are not necessarily your creditors: they could have given you a helping hundred or three as a gift.

In short: your "ethical obligation" (sorry, still getting my head around it) is to advertise and repay those who respond. Stick the ad in the Australian Financial Review on a Friday and it shouldn't catch anyone's eye. People only read it that day for "Hearsay".

Enjoy laughing at the failings, foibles and faux pas of others? Of course you do.

Then why not contribute to WADR?

By email to, by fax on 9607 9451 or by mail C/- LIJ, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000.


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