Andrew L. Urban
The allegation by Jack Shapiro, a lawyer at the Office of the Tasmanian DPP, that Hobart solicitor Jeff Thompson “duped” a prisoner in the course of working on the Sue Neill-Fraser appeal, is haunting Thompson’s forthcoming trial on charges of perverting justice. The next directions hearing on the matter is listed for next Monday (April 26, 2021); will the court address the allegation against Thompson, who has yet to be tried? Is Shapiro’s allegation likely to ‘poison the jury pool’?
First reported by the ABC News website in 2018, the allegation was made in court in reference to exchanges with Stephen Gleeson, who had pleaded guilty to two charges of perverting the course of justice. He claimed he had made a mistake; “”I feel more stupid about my actions…”.
Thompson was charged with perverting the course of justice in August 2017 by influencing a photo identification by Gleeson (which Thompson denies); in early 2018 Lynda Mason, counsel for the DPP, requested the Supreme Court (Brett J) that Thompson’s trial be deferred until after the Sue Neill-Fraser appeal has been finalised. (That sits at odds with the requirement that a person should be tried without an unreasonable delay.) The appeal judges have reserved their decision, so that is still some way off.
But would Thompson get a fair trial? The allegation was: “Put simply, he was duped by Mr Thompson and those who visited him and if it wasn’t for their actions he would just be serving his sentence,” he said.
While Mr Shapiro has professional immunity covering his actions in court, Jeff Thompson has not been convicted of any wrongdoing;
a) does Mr Shapiro’s allegation amount to perverting the course of justice?
b) does it prejudice his chance of a fair trial?
c) should the court order Mr Shapiro to issue a public statement retracting his allegation?
d) should Mr Shapiro advise the ABC that he is retracting that allegation and request it be published?
And repeated on smithforensic:
Mr Shapiro told the court that Gleeson was the “least culpable”. “Put simply, he was duped by Mr Thompson.
An allegation of ‘duping’ – especially by a lawyer from the ODPP – is likely to have significant negative financial ramifications for a solicitor, whose good character and credibility are primary requirements by clients and employers.