Council of the New South Wales Bar Association v Rollinson [2022] NSWSC 407

Council of the New South Wales Bar Association v Rollinson [2022] NSWSC 407

In this matter, Greg Walsh acted on a pro bono basis for Mr Michael Rollinson, Barrister, who had been the subject of two declarations that he was in contempt of Court and that he be punished for the contempt.

The Applicant was the Council of the NSW Bar Association (“the Bar Council”). Mr Rollinson pleaded guilty to each count of contempt. His Honour Beech-Jones CJ at CL set out the evidence in support of those breaches at [11] – [62].

His Honour approached the sentencing of Mr Rollinson on the basis that he had not previously breached the law or any relevant norm or professional standard. Further, that although his practice had struggled, were it not for his conduct since July 2021, it was likely that he would have continued with the support of solicitors and professional colleagues. However, his Honour regarded “it as an almost virtual certainty that either by way of being refused a Practising Certificate or removed from the Roll of Practitioners (or both), Mr Rollinson will not (lawfully) practice again.”

Beech-Jones CJ considered the Report of an experienced forensic psychiatrist, Dr Andrew Ellis, of 18 February 2022. Dr Ellis classified Mr Rollinson’s interpersonal isolation as schizoid personality disorder. This involved a pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restrictive range of expression of emotions beginning in early childhood.

The opinion of Dr Ellis gave rise to a real risk that Mr Rollinson’s “personality disorder, age and build would render him vulnerable to intimidation” in custody

His Honour set out the principles for punishment for contempt and ultimately determined that each of the contempts represented a serious challenge to the Court’s authority that was exacerbated by Rollinson’s status as an officer of the very Court he deliberately and repeatedly defied.

His Honour declared that Mr Rollinson is in contempt of the Court for the various breaches to which he pleaded guilty and ordered that a commitment to a correctional centre for a period of 9 months commencing on the date of his arrest be suspended on the condition that for a period of 3 years from today, 8 April 2022, he comply with Order 1 made by Wilson J on 16 August 2021.

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