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Lawyer in female genital mutilation investigation to be removed from roll

By Naomi Neilson

An order has been made to strike out the name of the lawyer who counselled fathers of female genital mutilation victims to lie to police, an offence that the Court of Appeal said “strikes at the heart of our system of justice”. 

Content warning: This lawyer was involved in a female genital mutilation investigation. While details are kept to a minimum, we strongly advise caution.

Between August and October 2012, police lawfully intercepted calls from solicitor Hussein Karimjee who was advising fathers of female genital mutilation victims to “maintain their story” to police and lie in official statements. An order has now been made to remove his name from the roll of Australian practitioners.

“By engaging in the offending conduct, Mr Karimjee deliberately placed his personal desire to assist members of the community in misleading the police above his professional obligations to the court and to the administration of justice,” the judgement read, adding he was “probably permanently unfit to practise”. 

Mr Karimjee was arrested and charged in 2013 with two counts of “do act with the intent to pervert the course of justice”. He pleaded guilty to one charge in May 2017 and was eventually convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

After he pleaded guilty, Mr Karimjee informed the Law Society of NSW council that he would not be renewing his practising certificate and agreed to surrender his then-current one. He also volunteered to assist with the process of having his name removed from the role and requested only that the Court of Appeal change the language in his removal from “permanently” unfit to practise to “indefinitely”.

Given that Mr Karimjee’s legal status came with the “obligation not to interfere, or attempt to interfere, with the course of justice”, the court dismissed his request. 

“Having violated that duty, he was guilty of very serious criminal conduct warranting removal from the roll. We are unable to accept the characterisation of ‘indefinitely’ rather than probably permanently unfit to practise. It bears emphasis that the offence Mr Karimjee committed was one which strikes at the heart of our system of justice,” the judgement read.

Other than his name already existing on public documents, the Court of Appeal rejected an application to have his name redacted in the disciplinary proceedings on the grounds that public interest in this matter is “not lightly to be discarded”.

“Admission to the roll of legal practitioners is a privilege. Removal from the roll is a very serious matter. In exercising the inherent jurisdiction to discipline legal practitioners, the public interest in open justice must be borne steadily in mind. When a member of the legal profession conducts himself or herself so as to bring disrepute to the profession, to the administration of justice and to the legal system, the reasons of the court should be expressed as openly as reasonably possible,” the judgement read.

“To do less may lead to the view, even if misguided, that the system operates in favour of members of the legal profession in a way it does not with other litigants.”

The entire judgement can be read on AustLII and JADE: Council of the Law Society of New South Wales v Karimjee [2021] NSWCA 179 (17 August 2021).

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