Lawyer in Pisasale extortion struck off

Lawyer Cameron McKenzie will be struck off after his conviction for extortion.
Lawyer Cameron McKenzie will be struck off after his conviction for extortion.

A solicitor who helped former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale extort a Sydney taxi driver has lost his bid to remain a legal practitioner.

Cameron James McKenzie's name will be struck off the roll after a Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) decision that found no evidence he "is or is likely to become a person fit to practise".

McKenzie was convicted in 2019 alongside Pisasale and escort Yutian Li of extorting Li's former partner of up to $10,000.

He wrote a letter - at Pisasale's request - on his practice letterhead to Xin Li demanding money and threatening to take him to the Federal Court if he did not pay.

The extortion came to light during an investigation into Pisasale by the state's corruption watchdog.

McKenzie was released from jail last year after being sentenced to 18 months behind bars, suspended after nine months.

He opposed the removal of his name from the roll saying his conduct was "not systematic or repeated" and did not involve the misuse of trust monies or a client's confidential information, according to the published decision of judicial member Duncan McMeekin QC.

McKenzie also provided 25 character references and three affidavits from fellow professionals.

"The references and affidavits all spoke well of Mr McKenzie's character and that this criminal conduct was out of character," Mr McMeekin said.

"Many spoke of his youth, inexperience and naivety."

But Legal Services Commissioner Megan Mahon disagreed saying McKenzie was 35 years old at the time he offended and had been in practice for eight years.

"The claimed explanation for Mr McKenzie's conduct - poor judgment and not greed - ignores the fact that Mr McKenzie perceived a benefit to himself in blindly following Mr Pisasale's instructions," the commissioner argued, according to the judgment.

"By currying favour with the mayor, he hoped for future advancement and a possible political career."

Mr McMeekin said there was no evidence of McKenzie's remorse, contrition and concern for the victim until only months ago - some four years after the events.

"Having exhausted his remedies it can be said that Mr McKenzie has commenced his rehabilitation," he added.

"How successful that will prove to be time will tell.

"There is no reason at all to think that he is rehabilitated, and no way of knowing if he will ever be."

The decision to remove McKenzie's name from the roll would end a young man's career for at least the foreseeable future, but there was no alternative that would "sufficiently protect the public and the reputation of the profession", Mr McMeekin said.

The QCAT decision is the latest in a string of court efforts by McKenzie.

Following his trial he filed an appeal, applied for special leave to appeal to the High Court and sought legal aid to assess the merits of making an application to the Governor for a pardon.

Australian Associated Press