JLC and Legal Ombudsman; Queensland Law Society Inc. (Third Party); A Solicitor (Fourth Party)

Application number:
1995 S0136
Decision date:
Thursday, Apr 29, 1999
(1999) 5 QAR 33

JLC and Legal Ombudsman; Queensland Law Society Inc. (Third Party); A Solicitor (Fourth Party)
(1995 S0136, 29 April 1999)

The matter in issue was of the identity of a solicitor who had provided the Queensland Law Society Inc (the QLS) with his professional opinion concerning a particular issue that arose in connection with the QLS’s consideration of a complaint made by the applicant regarding the conduct of another solicitor. 

The Information Commissioner decided that the matter in issue did not qualify for exemption under s.46(1)(b).  The Information Commissioner found that there was no evidence of an express assurance about confidential treatment by the QLS of the solicitor’s identity (or opinion) being sought or given.  Having regard to the material circumstances attending the relevant communication between the solicitor and the QLS, the Information Commissioner also was not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that at the time the solicitor communicated his advice to the QLS, there existed an implicit mutual understanding that the advising solicitor desired, and the QLS accepted, that the identity of the solicitor should be treated in confidence by the respondent. 

As a further ground for finding that the matter in issue did not qualify for exemption under s.46(1)(b), the Information Commissioner was not satisfied that a substantial number of solicitors available to the QLS to assist it in the discharge of its regulatory functions, by providing professional legal advice or assistance, could reasonably be expected to be inhibited from doing so because their identities may be disclosed.  The Information Commissioner therefore found that disclosure of the matter in issue could not reasonably be expected to prejudice the future supply of such information.

The Information Commissioner also rejected claims that the matter in issue qualified for exemption under s.40(a), s.41(1), s.42(1)(e) or s.43(1) of the FOI Act.