Media coverage: The Guardian
A former president of the Law Council, Pauline Wright, and workplace expert Narreen Young, said that if a CEO of a company or a senior lawyer in a firm were accused of a similar historical crime, they would normally step down while an investigation took place.
“If it was a partner in a law firm, generally speaking a complaint would be made to the Law Society of NSW, if it was in NSW, or the office of the legal services commissioner,” Wright said.
“And an investigation would take place by the independent body, and it would be looking at whether the person was fit and proper to continue on the roll of solicitors, or admitted as a barrister. The potential outcome for a solicitor or barrister is being struck off. Because this is the sort of thing that would bring the profession into disrepute”.
Wright said that, as the first law officer, the attorney general should be held to a similar standard.
Any inquiry would look at “fitness to continue in the role as opposed to criminal guilt”, she said, and thus would not conflict with the criminal law.
“It is not looking at his criminal guilt,” she said. “It is looking at whether or not he is of that very high standard that we expect of ministers, particularly of the first law officer.
“There would be numerous examples where individuals are accused of inappropriate behaviour where it is not referred to the police necessarily,” she said. “You might find the complainant doesn’t want to go to court but is very happy for there to be an investigation internally.”
Wright, who is also the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said that an independent inquiry could also apply a different standard of proof – higher than the usual civil standard of “balance of probabilities”.
“There is another standard called comfortable satisfaction, which is a higher standard than balance of probabilities, but not as high as reasonable doubt.
“It is the kind of standard that is often applied in administrative proceedings. I would have thought that is the kind of standard you were meaning to apply in a potentially serious allegation”.