Christian Porter could face a potential investigation by the Legal Practice Board of Western Australia as to whether he is “fit and proper” to remain admitted as a lawyer.

But the board has downplayed its role, telling Crikey on Monday that an investigation would require “sufficient evidence” of any alleged misconduct to deem him unfit to practise.

A group of academics has called on the board to investigate whether Porter should be stripped of his WA practising certificate after allegations of historical rape against him, the ABC revealed today.

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Porter strenuously denies the rape allegations.

Crikey asked the law board earlier this week about its role in considering whether Porter should remain admitted to the board.

Libby Fulham, its executive director, says although the board’s job is to consider whether a person was no longer fit and proper to be a practising lawyer, forming that belief required “sufficient evidence” of any alleged conduct warranting an investigation.

“All practitioners have a professional obligation to disclose a matter affecting their suitability to currently hold a local practising certificate,” she said.

“However, for the sake of clarity, unsubstantiated historic allegations of criminal conduct, of the kind currently in the public domain, would not generally be a matter requiring disclosure that the practitioner is currently not a fit and proper person, particularly in the absence of a charge, evidence of that conduct, or findings from an investigation.”

All legal practitioners in WA must renew their practising certificate annually, between May 1 and June 30.

WA’s Legal Profession Act 2008 requires lawyers renewing their practising certificates to be “currently of good fame and character” and to be a “fit and proper person”.

It also considers whether the person is currently subject to an “unresolved complaint, investigation, charge or order” under the act or corresponding law.

The renewal process also requires those applying for renewal to disclose anything that might render them unfit, including “any other matters”.

A group of academics including Monash University law Professor Adrian Evans have called on the board to ask it to investigate Porter, the ABC’s Virginia Trioli reported this morning.

“There’s no barrier for the Legal Practice Board to investigate this matter,” Evans told Trioli. They have yet to file a formal complaint to the board.

The board told Crikey that it was aware of the media reports and if it received a complain it would consider “any appropriate response or action”.

An investigation by the WA board would pose a threat to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has continued to defend the attorney-general in the face of the shocking historical allegations.

This morning he ruled out seeking advice from the solicitor-general on whether Porter was a fit and proper person to hold his post, describing him as an “innocent man”.

It follows calls by former solicitor-general Justin Gleeson for Morrison to enlist his successor Stephen Donaghue to determine whether Porter is fit and proper to remain attorney-general.

Gleeson also called on Morrison to read the 31-page dossier outlining the claims Porter denied.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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