The Supreme Court ruling is the latest chapter in Lloyd Rayney’s long legal battles. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
Almost 13 years after the unsolved murder of his wife, former Perth barrister Lloyd Rayney has been struck off as a lawyer for secretly recording her conversations and then giving false evidence about it in court.
- Lloyd Rayney was not in court to hear the ruling handed down
- He secretly recorded his wife at least seven times using a dictaphone
- Mr Rayney was found not guilty of her murder after a 2012 trial
The decision by the full bench of the WA Supreme Court is another chapter in Mr Rayney’s long legal battle to maintain his reputation and keep practising as a lawyer, amid the fallout from the mysterious death of his wife Corryn more than a decade ago.
Mr Rayney was not in court and his lawyer, Martin Bennett, said there was no opposition to the court making its orders to remove him from the roll of practitioners.
The hearing lasted only minutes, with the full bench of the Supreme Court releasing the reasons for its judgement on Tuesday afternoon.
In the judgement, the full bench said it had nothing before it which demonstrated Mr Rayney had accepted that he acted unprofessionally.
“To the contrary, despite the fact that Mr Rayney does not oppose the … application to remove his name from the Roll of Practitioners, we note that in his affidavit sworn on 19 March 2018 … Mr Rayney maintained the position that he took before the [State Administrative Tribunal] … and did not acknowledge his wrongdoing,” the judgement stated.
“Nor did his affidavit contain any statements upon which it could be found that he had any insight into, or was remorseful for, his professional misconduct.”
The court said the decision to strike him off, “was essentially because of Mr Rayney’s fundamental failure to adhere to his duties to the court to act honestly”.
The court ruled that Mr Rayney’s “dishonest behaviour” was so serious that “the only appropriate order for the court to make was an order to remove Mr Rayney’s name from the roll of practitioners”.
Corryn Rayney disappeared in 2007 after attending a bootscooting class, with the 44-year-old Supreme Court registrar’s body found 10 days later in a deep bush grave in Kings Park in the centre of Perth.
In the ensuing years, Mr Rayney successfully defended himself against charges of bugging the family’s home phone and more significantly a charge of murdering his wife.
Lloyd Rayney was found not guilty in 2012 of murdering his wife Corryn five years earlier.
(AAP Image: WA Supreme Court)
Then, a decade after his wife’s disappearance, he won a then-record $2.62 million defamation payout for being named by WA Police as the prime and only suspect in the case.
Mr Rayney also fought off an attempt by the Legal Practice Board to ban him as a lawyer, but it was a second complaint by the Legal Profession Complaints Committee (LPPC) that has led to the ruling by WA’s highest court that he should be struck off.
It brings to a halt a once esteemed career that included prosecuting major criminal cases for the office of the WA Director of Public Prosecutions and later saw him become a high-profile criminal defence barrister.
Recordings found during murder investigation
The LPPC’s complaint centred on at least seven recordings Mr Rayney made on a handheld dictaphone as the couple’s 17-year marriage broke down in acrimonious circumstances in the months before Ms Rayney’s disappearance.
The recordings were discovered during the investigation into her murder, but Mr Rayney resisted the police’s attempts to seize them, testifying two years later in the Magistrates Court that they were created for a legal purpose and therefore should not be handed over.
The body of Corryn Rayney was found buried in Kings Park in August 2007. (AAP Image: The West Australian)
That explanation was rejected by the magistrate and by subsequent appeal courts, as well as the judge in Mr Rayney’s murder trial, who found the barrister had secretly recorded his wife.
The LPPC’S case was heard in the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) over four days in December 2018, with Mr Rayney again giving evidence that the recordings were done with his wife’s knowledge and consent.
A month later the SAT handed down its decision and Mr Rayney’s evidence was again rejected, with the SAT finding the making of the recordings was “professional misconduct” exacerbated by his false evidence in court.
The tribunal took into account the circumstances of what was happening when he recorded his wife’s conversations, including the stress and strain of the relationship breakdown as well as his father’s ill health, and recommended that a reprimand was appropriate.
But it recommended that he be struck off for lying in court.
It is unlikely to be Mr Rayney’s last court hearing as he appeals against his defamation payout. (ABC News: Marcus Alborn)
“Mr Rayney’s conduct in knowingly giving false evidence intending to mislead the Magistrates Court constituted professional misconduct,” it said.
“It was conduct that would justify a finding that Mr Rayney is not a fit and proper person to engage in legal practice, and conduct that would reasonably be regarded as disgraceful or dishonourable by Mr Rayney’s professional colleagues of good repute.”
Ruling ends Rayney’s ‘ambition’
Today’s final decision by the Supreme Court was likely to come as a blow to Mr Rayney, as noted by the SAT in its ruling when it considered what penalty to recommend.
“Mr Rayney has deposed that he has always loved practising law. It has been his ambition to be a lawyer all of his life,” it said.
“He has deposed that if he lost the ability to practice law he would find that both financially and emotionally crushing.”
But the decision is unlikely to be the last time he will appear before the courts.
He has lodged an appeal against the defamation payout he received, arguing he should have been awarded more because of the damage done to his reputation and career.
A date is yet to be set for that Court of Appeal hearing.
A timeline of the Rayney saga
August 7, 2007
Corryn Rayney disappears after attending her weekly bootscooting class in the Perth suburb of Bentley.
August 16, 2007
Police find Ms Rayney’s body in a deep grave in Kings Park.
August 22, 2007
Police search the Rayney family home in the southern Perth suburb of Como. They say her husband, Lloyd Rayney, is not a suspect in the murder investigation.
September 20, 2007
Detective Sergeant Jack Lee says Mr Rayney is the only suspect in the case. Police charge him with bugging the family’s home telephone.
September 21, 2007
Mr Rayney issues a statement through his lawyers denying any involvement in his wife’s murder.
September 17, 2008
Mr Rayney launches defamation action against the state of WA for naming him as the prime suspect in his wife’s murder.
December 8, 2010
Detectives charge Mr Rayney with the murder of his wife after arresting him in the Perth CBD.
December 23, 2010
Mr Rayney is released on bail.
July 16, 2012
Mr Rayney’s murder trial begins in the Supreme Court before a judge sitting without a jury.
November 1, 2012
Mr Rayney is found not guilty of murder.
Justice Brian Martin found while Mr Rayney had engaged in some “discreditable conduct”, the case against him lacked “logic” and “crucial evidence”, and fell well short of proving that he murdered his wife.
September 23, 2013
An appeal by prosecutors against the not guilty verdict, is dismissed.
May 7, 2015
Mr Rayney is cleared of charges of bugging his family’s home telephone and unlawfully recording his wife’s conversations.
February 9, 2016
Mr Rayney wins the right to practise law again after his certification was initially revoked by the Legal Practice Board.
March 1, 2017
The defamation trial starts in the Supreme Court.
December 20, 2017
Justice John Chaney awards Mr Rayney $2.62 million after finding that the description of him by police as the prime and only suspect “in their entirety, bore the imputation that the plaintiff murdered his wife”.
January 25, 2018
The State Administrative Tribunal upholds a complaint by the Legal Practitioners Complaints Committee that Mr Rayney engaged in unprofessional conduct by recording his wife’s conversations without her consent and then lied about it to a Magistrate.
The tribunal recommends that Mr Rayney be struck off as a lawyer.
January 31, 2018
Mr Rayney lodges an appeal to try to increase his defamation payout.
April 21, 2020
Mr Rayney is struck off as a lawyer.