Legal Services Commissioner v Musgrave (2000) NNSWADT 124; Law Society of NSW v Musgrave (2000) NSWADT 125

When the proceedings taken by the Legal Services Commissioner came before the Tribunal for hearing on 26 October 1998, Mr Musgrave did not appear. The Tribunal noted that the practitioner had ‘disappeared’ from his place of residence at Coffs Harbour two days before 26 October 1998 and that the Tribunal had found in other proceedings (taken by the Law Society) against the legal practitioner that in the period of his disappearance from 24 October 1998 to 5 November 1998, he was suffering from a dissociative fugue and was not responsible for his actions in impersonating another Solicitor.

The Tribunal however in making its findings of professional misconduct in respect of complaints bought to the Tribunal by the Legal Services Commissioner, did not accept the solicitor’s conduct in respect of which those findings were made was affected by or explained by mental illness.

The Tribunal said at (24) it was “satisfied that on the balance of probabilities, the Solicitor did suffer a dissociative fugue in October, 1998, from the time of his disappearance until sometime about the time of his return to Coffs Harbour on 5 November 1998. This was an episode of illness of short duration.”

The Tribunal was satisfied that on the balance of probabilities that whilst these experiences may in part help to understand the Solicitor’s behaviour, they did not excuse his misconduct, although that misconduct no doubt heightens his distress and anxiety. The Tribunal found that prior to the onset of the dissociative fugue; the solicitor did not have a condition which relieved him of responsibility for his acts.