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Ipswich lawyer Cameron McKenzie struck off for extortion

Cameron McKenzie

On 1 February 2017, Cameron McKenzie sent a solicitor’s letter at the request of then Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale to the complainant. The letter falsely claimed that McKenzie was acting for the complainant’s wife, and demanded that the complainant pay various sums said to reflect expenses incurred for a private investigator, miscellaneous charges, and legal costs.

That demand was accompanied by a threat to cause detriment. In the absence of payment the complainant was to “Answer for your actions in the Federal Court of Australia”, and that a failure to accept the offer may lead to the complainant being criminally prosecuted through his actions being discovered in a court of law.

In July 2019, a Brisbane District Court jury found McKenzie guilty of one count of extortion. McKenzie was sentenced to 18 months’ jail, suspended after serving 9 months.

McKenzie appealed his conviction on the ground that it was not open to a jury to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that he knew that Ms Li had not incurred expenses (if, in fact, that had been proven).

In March 2020, the Court of Appeal dismissed McKenzie’s appeal. Morrison JA noted among other things that McKenzie was given divergent amounts claimed by Pisasale, only dealt with Pisasale and exchanges subsequently entered into with Pisasale revealed an intent to scare the complainant. Morrison JA (with whom the other judges agreed) held that these matters entitled the jury to be satisfied of the absence of reasonable cause and the true nature of what was intended when the letter of demand was sent.

McKenzie unsuccessfully applied for leave to appeal to the High Court.

McKenzie resisted a striking off order, arguing that he should be suspended from practising for a period of three years, undergo ongoing psychological treatment and submit to ethics training. His Barrister Christopher Upton argued that McKenzie was remorseful, contrite and embarrassed by his conduct. Read full story:


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