For some time now, the mining and construction industry have been often cited as sectors that have a deeply-rooted drug problem among its workers. However, if news reports, profession insider stories and rumours are to be believed, the legal profession in Australia is also currently facing a major drug problem itself.
Yes, lawyers do get hooked on drugs, as drug use and abuse know no profession, race, sex and age. Anyone can become drugs and abusers, even the ones who are sworn to represent people on trial for drug-related offences or, on the other side of the fence, convict them for those violations.
Drug problem among lawyers hard to prove
Over the years, there have been tales of social cocaine use among top-end lawyers in Australia, but data that would prove such stories and that the legal profession has a drug problem are hard to come by. In fact, a recent survey of a thousand lawyers conducted by the University of New South Wales, only seven per cent reported using drugs, and very intermittently at that at once a month. Lawyers who used drugs on a regular basis (several times a month or more) only made up three per cent of the respondents.
The drug problem in the legal profession in Australia, however, got unexpectedly thrown under the spotlight when a female lawyer who worked for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) got apprehended by police for cocaine possession in July.
Police stopped the cab carrying Lisa Munro, who was at the peak of her career being a part of Group 6, the DPP’s elite team of lawyers tasked with taking on high-profile cases that include referrals from the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and allegedly found 0.65 grams of cocaine on her person. She has been promptly charged with drug possession, and has since quit her position at the DPP.
Police officers attached to the Redfern Region Enforcement Squad are already investigating lawyers from the DPP, and there is talk that the investigation is slowly finding out that there is, indeed, a culture of drug use within the organisation. It is not far-fetched that the investigation will eventually lead to drug testing efforts on the part of the organisation itself.
Lawyers involved in drug cases not new
In any case, the idea of lawyers breaching the law and becoming drug abusers and even drug dealers is not a recent occurrence. In the past 18 months, there have been a number of high-profile drug cases involving lawyers. There’s Nicholas Gouliaditis, a senior executive lawyer at Australian Government Solicitor who was charged with drug dealing in August 2014. In April, Brisbane-based lawyer Nigel Francis Munt was also convicted of trafficking methylamphetamine.
Then there’s Andrew Fraser, a criminal lawyer based in Melbourne. Several years ago, he published a book that detailed his addiction to cocaine, as well as his attendance at the various ‘cocaine parties’ that other lawyers in his circle held on a regular basis.
His cocaine addiction soon evolved into cocaine smuggling, as he was arrested for importing a commercial quantity of cocaine into the country. He was eventually handed a seven-year jail sentence, and was in prison for five years.
Fraser’s revelations in his book, Munro’s arrest and the subsequent investigation of the DPP may not exactly be definitive proof of rampant substance abuse at work among lawyers, but it certainly raises concerns about the extent of drug use in the legal profession in Australia.