A solicitor facing serious criminal charges has had her name and that of her Sydney law firm suppressed on the basis that her “mental health may be jeopardised” if she is identified in either her criminal or disciplinary proceedings.
In September 2019, the solicitor’s client, Hanadi Rafraf, whose name has not been suppressed, was awarded $453,472 for injuries she sustained in a car accident. However, her solicitor (who has been given the pseudonym XY) presented Ms Rafraf with a certificate signed by claims assessor Hugh Macken indicating she would receive an amount which was $132,000 less than the correct amount.
After Centrelink informed Ms Rafraf of the true amount, she obtained the authentic certificate from the insurer which revealed she had indeed received $453,472. Mr Macken has alleged to police that his signature was forged.
In January 2021 solicitor XY was charged by Bankstown detectives with making a false document to obtain a financial advantage.
XY did not inform the Legal Services Commissioner (LSC), as was required, she had been charged with a serious offence. She later argued that her practising certificate should not be suspended as she was a fit and proper person and that the allegations against her were due to a costs dispute.
However, before the matter could be determined by the LSC, it received further allegations that XY had recently doctored a number of invoices to dishonestly obtain funds.
The NSW Supreme Court heard that in April 2021 XY submitted a number of invoices to Legal Pay, a financial institution that provides litigation funding to lawyers.
In one case, XY told Legal Pay that her client was about to receive a $3.5 million payout from the NRMA. While awaiting settlement, XY asked Legal Pay to pay an $8800 invoice for a report by an expert witness. XY also submitted a number of invoices from doctors.
Legal Pay was outraged when it discovered the invoices had been falsified and the bank account for payment was not XY’s firm’s trust account.
In her judgment refusing to stay XY’s suspension as a solicitor, Justice Christine Adamson noted that Legal Pay and the doctors were appalled by what they regarded as XY’s “brazenly dishonest conduct”, said the judge.