Barrister struck off after years of delay

THE Sydney lawyer Robert William Cameron, one of a large group of barristers revealed eight years ago as former bankrupts and serial tax defaulters, has been struck off the roll of legal practitioners.

But it has taken more than six years to do so.

The executive director of the NSW Bar Association, Philip Selth, blamed the delay on "the complexities involved in investigating and analysing Mr Cameron's financial affairs", which included involving a forensic accountant, delays by Mr Cameron and "substantial delay" in obtaining documents via an application to the Supreme Court in an unrelated case.

Mr Cameron's practising certificate was first cancelled in 2001. Although the certificate was reissued briefly, the 70-year-old barrister, a former legislative draftsman in the Parliamentary Counsel's Office following his admission to the bar in 1968, has not worked at the bar since December 2002.

So large were his outstanding taxation fines by September 1989, following his first five tax convictions, that the Taxation Office had him woken at home and arrested on a police warrant. Afterwards he was twice bankrupted, in 1990 and 1995. In 2001, after more tax convictions, he staved off a third bankruptcy by paying an outstanding $186,200 in tax.

Mr Cameron was among a group of barristers revealed in a Herald investigation in February 2001 to have abused bankruptcy laws, been declared bankrupt or to have repeatedly failed to pay tax while still practising law.

In July 2001 the Legal Profession Act was amended to require notification by lawyers of any bankruptcy or tax conviction.

Mr Cameron's removal from the roll last month followed a strike-off order sought last year by the Bar Association which alleged he made misleading statements in 2001 during a council investigation into his tax convictions. He had referred only to late filing of his returns for the 1995 and 1999 financial years when in 2001 he knew that between February 1980 and November 1992 he had not made any direct payments of income tax of his own volition.

In November last year, on advice from his senior counsel, David Rofe, QC, Mr Cameron admitted to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal he had been guilty of professional misconduct. To his "eternal regret", especially as a former drafter of legislation, Mr Cameron told the tribunal he had totally misread the July 2001 amendment to the Legal Profession Act.

He was "not thinking clearly at the time [2001] and have to concede that I was emotionally troubled about the whole situation, particularly the way in which the media was treating me, my family and the NSW Bar".

Unable to accept parts of his evidence and finding he had deliberately misled the Bar Association, the tribunal ordered that Mr Cameron be struck off until 2011.