‘Fake lawyer’ caught in act under investigation
A MAN claiming to be a barrister is under investigation after representing someone in court and offering legal advice to others despite not being a registered lawyer.
Sporting joggers to match his suit in court was what gave Joel Stansfield away.
Mr Stansfield lists himself as a barrister on LinkedIn and has quoted $10,000 per case with an extra $5000 should the matter go to trial.
However, Mr Stansfield's name cannot be found on the list of barristers operating in Queensland, and he is not a registered lawyer with the Queensland Law Society.
Sources told the Townsville Bulletin it was an eagle-eyed prosecutor who raised the alarm on Mr Stansfield.
"He appeared in court on May 29," a source told the Bulletin.
"The prosecutor noticed as he was leaving the courtroom that he was wearing a suit but had joggers on, which struck him as peculiar."
It is understood prosecutors have since had several encounters with people who have come to court with paperwork prepared by Mr Stansfield.
He insisted he had completed a Bachelor of Law through Southern Cross University.
However, a Southern Cross University spokeswoman confirmed the tertiary educator did not have a record of Mr Stansfield graduating with a Bachelor of Laws.
When questioned by the Bulletin, Mr Stansfield said he was not a barrister but didn't believe he was doing anything illegal by portraying himself to be so on social media.
He said he had not yet applied for the required licence to practice law because he could not afford it.
"I earn $325 a fortnight … that's all I get on Newstart (through Centrelink)," Mr Stansfield said. "I'm requesting a start-to-finish price (for potentially clients) of $10,000.
"I've had a few inquiries but no one has hired me yet."
Bar Association of Queensland president Rebecca Treston confirmed Mr Stansfield did not hold a barrister's practising certificate.
"The Bar Association of Queensland is aware of a situation arising in Townsville whereby a Mr Joel Stansfield is allegedly holding himself out to be a barrister without holding the relevant qualifications or a Queensland barrister's practising certificate," she said.
"The association has referred this matter to the Legal Services Commission for investigation and considers the commission to be the appropriate authority to investigate the matter.
"The Bar Association takes such conduct very seriously and will assist the Legal Services Commission with their investigations as required."
Mr Stansfield's LinkedIn page shows him asking for second-hand barrister robes and wigs because he was "unable to afford new as I am only now getting cases, $2600 new is out of my price range at present".
Mr Stansfield initially said he had only represented himself in court, but then admitted to representing someone known to him. Referring to the incident in May, Mr Stansfield said he told the court he was "working on behalf of legal aid" but claimed to have never portrayed himself as an employee of Legal Aid.
"I have done a few bail applications for a few friends," he said.
"I haven't done anything illegal, I have trained people to represent themselves using documentation."
Mr Stansfield said his "office" was based out of his residential unit in Kirwan.
He confirmed he had sent correspondence requesting to be a duty lawyer at Townsville Magistrates Court and has ambitions to one day be a magistrate.
"I always wanted to be one of three things … a stand-up comedian, a barrister or a politician because there's no difference in the three," he said.
The wannabe-magistrate told the Bulletin he had a criminal history which included a charge of trafficking dangerous drugs, for which he was sentenced to five years jail in 2010. He said he served one-and-a-half years of that sentence and was in the process of appealing the matter.
Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts said "fake lawyers" were an emerging problem in Queensland.
"People posing as a lawyer, whether they are simply a fraudster or are undertaking some kind of Walter Mitty fantasy, are a danger to the public," Mr Potts said.
"They are a danger because they are untrained, they are uninsured, and they have no ethical guidelines or responsibility to the court."
Ms Treston said anyone with cause for concern as to the validity of qualifications or a practising certificate of any counsel they had dealings with, should contact the association immediately.