The much publicised Melbourne criminal lawyer Zarah Garde-Wilson has been pursued up hill and down dale by forces determined to wipe out her legal career. Yesterday Ms Garde-Wilson beat off the latest and most potent challenge when her trial — on charges brought against her for allegedly lying to the Australian Crime Commission and handling a firearm — collapsed.
Once someone walks free from court an innocent person most people would assume that they would be able to get on with their lives. But this appears not to be so in the case of the flamboyant Ms Garde-Wilson. The legal industry’s regulator, the Legal Services Board, is continuing to try and stop Garde-Wilson from earning a living as a lawyer because of a contempt of court conviction she copped in 2005.
Garde-Wilson’s contempt of court came in unusual circumstances. When Garde-Wilson’s lover Lewis Caine was murdered in May 2004, she went to the police and gave them confidential information to assist their investigation. Contrary to what she assumed was the understanding reached with the Victoria Police, she was called to give evidence at the trial of the two men, both heavy underworld figures, who had been charged with Caine’s murder.
Garde-Wilson refused to answer questions because she feared for her own safety. She was then charged with contempt and convicted in November 2005. Significantly, the judge who convicted her took into account the mitigating circumstances of the matter and did not further punish Garde-Wilson.
But despite this, the Legal Services Board decided that Garde-Wilson is not a fit and proper person to be allowed to practise law. So far the Legal Services Board has come up second best in its battle against Garde-Wilson because of its failure to follow correct procedures, which included its legal representatives accessing Australian Crime Commission transcript without having proper approval.
Now that Garde-Wilson no longer has criminal charges hanging over her head, how can the Legal Services Board do anything other allow her to get on with running her legal practice, given that she received only a slap on the wrist for her contempt of court?
There is an element in the attitude of many in the legal industry towards Garde-Wilson that smacks of what we might term the vilification of difference. Garde-Wilson is a flamboyant character, to coin a well-used but in the circumstances, apt term. She has posed, clothed but oozing s-xuality, for raunchy men’s magazines and speaks openly of her use of psychics to connect her with the deceased Caine. Garde-Wilson is an adept user of the media.
Many in the legal profession in Australia and the UK resent the Garde-Wilsons of the world. It pretends to tolerate difference but in reality if you become a media figure and with it present an image of the profession that deviates too much from the uptight norm, then you can expect to find the establishment guns pointed in your direction.