Lawyer Alex Lewenberg Slammed by Vcat over ‘shocking’ Conduct

By Shannon Deery
Herald Sun
March 23, 2016

[Victorian Legal Services Commissioner v Lewenberg (Legal Practice) [2016]

Shannon Deery Herald Sun

A VETERAN lawyer who told a child sexual abuse victim that Jews shouldn’t help police prosecute other Jews, regardless of their crimes, has been found guilty of professional misconduct.

In a damning judgment handed down by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal yesterday Alex Lewenberg’s conduct was slammed as “truly shocking”.

The finding could lead to career-ending sanctions for the controversial lawyer who has previously had his practising certificate cancelled for unprofessional conduct.

VCAT acting president Judge Pamela Jenkins said comments made by Mr Lewenberg constituted a most serious breach that had no place in 21st century law.

“For (Mr Lewenberg), as a legal practitioner, to suggest that members of the Jewish community or indeed any community or religious affiliation, should close ranks and decline to assist in the prosecution of charges of this nature is truly shocking,” she said.

“If such a position had been adopted by other Jews, it not only would have had the capacity to hamper the prosecution of a child sex offender but, also, previously, to have allowed Mr Cyprys’ offending to continue for longer than it might otherwise have done.

“It is discreditable for (Mr Lewenberg), practising law as he does in a 21st century secular society, to nevertheless proselytise his misguided concept of religious or cultural solidarity, thus effectively allowing such views to take precedence over his professional obligation to uphold the principle of equality before the law.

“I draw the only reasonable inference that (Mr Lewenberg) not only espouses such views but that he practises law in accordance with them.”

Mr Lewenberg admitted two charges of misconduct at common law, but unsuccessfully contested charges of professional misconduct at a VCAT hearing last week.

It took Judge Jenkins just a week to find him guilty of the charges.

On two separate occasions: the first while in court; and the second during a covertly recorded phone conversation, Mr Lewenberg told a child sexual abuse victim that Jews shouldn’t help prosecute each other.

The Jewish victim had helped police in their prosecution of notorious Jewish paedophile David Cyprys, who Mr Lewenberg was representing at a bail application hearing in 2011.

Cyprys was jailed for the abuse of a string of children aged seven to 17 in the 1980s and 1990s.

During the bail hearing, Mr Lewenberg turned to Cyprys’s father and said: “It is most disappointing when a person who has nothing to do with the case and being a fellow Jew does wilfully seek to hinder another Jew in his defence of criminal charges.”

In a subsequent conversation with the victim, Mr Lewenberg, fresh from representing Cyprys, reiterated that: “I am not exactly delighted that another Yid would assist police against an accused, no matter whatever he is accused of. There is a tradition, if not a religious requirement, that you do not assist against (the people of Abraham).”

Mr Lewenberg did not dispute making the comments, but said they were taken out of context.

The matter will return to court next month to hear submissions in relation to appropriate sanctions for Mr Lewenberg.

In 1989, Mr Lewenberg was fined $3000 and his practising certificate was cancelled for unprofessional behaviour.

A Supreme Court judge found while there was no suggestion Mr Lewenberg had gained financially from the behaviour, he could not be trusted in his dealings with other solicitors.

Mr Lewenberg had behaved disgracefully and dishonestly, had shown no remorse, and was unfit to be a solicitor, the judge said.

But on appeal, the cancellation of Mr Lewenberg’s certificate was reduced from three years to two years.









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