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Report harassment or inappropriate behaviour to the Legal Practice Board


The Legal Practice Board of Western Australia has a responsibility to:
  • protect the public and raise professional standards in the legal profession
  • promote integrity and positive cultural change in legal profession workplaces.

We are committed to eliminating harassment and other negative or inappropriate behaviours, including sexual harassment, discrimination or bullying, from the professional legal workplace. These behaviours can seriously affect the mental health, sense of security, work satisfaction and productivity of those affected.

Harassment by a legal practitioner is a breach of professional responsibility and may amount to unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct. Harassment by others in legal profession workplaces or activities is of equal concern to us.

We have a responsibility to act on complaints of harassment, and promote a workplace culture where victims feel empowered to complain of harassment and confident that complaints will be taken seriously and acted on without fear of retribution.

We have an equal responsibility to promote workplace change so that harassment can be consistently identified, universally seen as unacceptable in a professional office environment, and eradicated from responsible workplace behaviour.

How to make a report or complaint about inappropriate behaviour

If you have experienced or witnessed harassment, discrimination or bullying by a lawyer or someone in a legal setting, but do not want to make a formal complaint, you can contact the Legal Practice Board informally and anonymously:
  • submit a report using our online reporting tool Speak Safely
  • call us on (08) 6211 3600 and ask to talk to a member of our Speak Safely Team
  • email harassment@lpbwa.com
Our Speak Safely Team has special training in managing reports or complaints about harassment (including sexual harassment), bullying and discrimination.
If you are not sure where to begin, speak to one of our Speak Safely Team to understand more about the process.

Can I make a formal complaint?

You can make a formal complaint by email, though our Complaint Enquiry Form, or through Speak Safely.

What is an informal report compared to a formal complaint?

 

Informal report Formal complaint
  • We will listen, give you options about what you can do, or refer you for support.
  • You can remain anonymous.
  • Must be in writing
  • We will conduct a preliminary assessment of what is disclosed to us.
  • If we can assist, we will usually advise the lawyer of the complaint and ask for an explanation.
  • We may decide to investigate the complaint.
  • We may close the complaint, or make a decision about it.
  • You must give your contact details. The Uniform Law does not allow complaints to be made anonymously.

Do you need immediate assistance?

If you are in imminent danger or want to report a crime, you should contact the WA Police on 000.

f you require urgent medical or psychological assistance, you should contact your local doctor, the emergency department of your local hospital, or St John Ambulance on 000.

Here are some other services to assist you

HELP AND COUNSELLING SERVICES

Lifeline is a national charity giving all Australians with a personal crisis access to 24-hour, 7 days per week crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14 or click here.

Beyond Blue gives help and support to anyone affected by anxiety and depression, 24-hours, 7 days per week. Call 1300 22 4636 or click here.

1800Respect provides 24-hour, 7 days per week confidential information, counselling and support to people impacted by sexual assault, family violence and abuse. Call 1800 737 732 or click here.

Sexual Assault Resource Centre is a free service in Perth with crisis services for people following a recent sexual assault in the last 2 weeks, and counselling for sexual assault or sexual abuse experienced recently or in the past. If you are in an emotional crisis from an unwanted sexual experience call (08) 6458 1828 or 1800 199 888 between 8:30am and 11:00pm, 7 days per week or click here.

OTHER SUPPORT SERVICES

Equal Opportunity Commission of WA is open to the public from 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday. The Commissioner can investigate and conciliate alleged discrimination based on one or more grounds of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. Call (08) 9216 3900 or 1800 198 140 or click here.

WorkSafe WA works to support a safe, fair and responsible future in the workplace for the Western Australian community, industry and resource sector and is open to the public from 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday. Call 1300 307 877 or click here.

Fair Work Australia promote harmonious, productive, cooperative and compliant workplace relations in Australia and is open to the public from 8:00am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday. Call 13 13 94 or click here.

Speak Safely FAQs

 
  1. What is the role of the Speak Safely‚Äč Team?
We have a dedicated team to support reports of harassment, discrimination and bullying. The Speak Safely Team has specialised training in receiving and managing these reports and complaints.

The team is there to listen, tell you about the reporting and complaints processes, refer you to other services and resources, and keep a record of your conversations.

The team cannot give legal advice, act as counsellors, or intervene and immediately stop the behaviour.
 
  1. Can I make an anonymous report to the Board?
Yes. You can call, email or use Speak Safely to make an anonymous report to us.

However, if you choose to remain anonymous and not make a formal complaint then we may not be able to investigate your specific incident.  The information you provide however will enable us to track and monitor incidents and identify potential trends. Where a trend is identified, or we have received sufficient information, we can take our own action, for example our own investigation, or a targeted compliance audit to assess how a law practice is being managed or supervised. Further, your report may inform targeted education and training for the profession.

Using Speak Safely, you can directly communicate anonymously with a Speak Safely Team member.
 
  1. Can I remain anonymous throughout the reporting process?
Your report can stay anonymous during the reporting process. However, you will need to identify yourself if you want to make a formal complaint.

If we take our own action, for example our own investigation, or a targeted compliance audit to assess how a law practice is being managed or supervised, we will respect your choice to remain anonymous. We will contact you to try and discuss the situation with you first before we act.

Whether or not any action is taken by us, we may be able to avoid disclosure of your identity though it may be difficult for you to remain completely anonymous. Workplace gossip or if you have made previous complaints may lead to assumptions about the source of the report or complaint.

Your employer is prohibited from discriminating against you because you have made a report about them or a colleague. For example, your employer cannot terminate your employment, demote you, discriminate against you, harass or intimidate you because you made a report or your employer suspects you made a report.

In some circumstances, we may need to give information to other state and commonwealth agencies, or as otherwise required by legislation, a court or tribunal. For example, we have a duty to report suspected serious criminal offences to the WA Police, or other appropriate authorities. The lawyer or another person may possibly identify you based on the information you have provided.

You can access our Privacy Policy here
 
  1. What will happen once I submit a report?
If you use Speak Safely, it will log your report, give some preliminary information, connect you to a member of the Speak Safely Team, and show you how to check on the progress of your report.

We are committed to responding to a report within 48 hours, bearing in mind our hours of operation are from 8:30am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday.

Should you be in imminent danger, you should contact the Police on 000.
 
  1. What is the Board’s process to consider or investigate my report?
There are a number of ways the process can run, largely dependent on how much detail you can provide. We have set out some of those ways below.
 
  1. I am anonymous and have not identified the alleged offender –
If you want to remain anonymous, and do not want to identify the alleged offender, a Speak Safely Team member will explain the options for you to get support, and what we can do with your information. The options available to us are under option (d) below, and at paragraph 9.
 
  1. I am anonymous, but have identified the alleged offender –
If you want to remain anonymous, but are willing to identify the alleged offender, we can discuss what the options are and what you would like us to do with your information. We may talk to the alleged offender or their employer, and explore avenues for change without identifying you.

This would include discussing if you have any objections to us sharing your story in this way.
 
  1. I have identified myself and the alleged offender, but do not wish to make a formal complaint –
If you are willing to identify yourself and the alleged offender but do not want to make a formal complaint, the Speak Safely Team member may talk to you about our process, including your views on being identified.

We may want to start a preliminary assessment following your report. The preliminary assessment may include speaking to you about the possibility of contacting the alleged offender about the concerns raised.

We may also need to investigate further or refer the report to another authority. We may be legally required to do this even if you do not want to make a complaint yourself. 

We may need to speak to the alleged offender about your concerns, and give them a summary or details of the allegations unless we think it could:
  • prejudice the investigation
  • prejudice an investigation by the WA Police or another investigatory law enforcement body
  • place you or another person at risk of intimidation or harassment
  • prejudice pending court proceedings.
After the preliminary assessment, we will decide if we should resolve the matter, close the matter, or seek further information from you or the lawyer.  Then we may decide to take our own action, for example initiate our own investigation, or undertake a targeted compliance audit to assess how a law practice is being managed or supervised.
 
  1. I have decided to make a formal complaint –
If you are willing to identify yourself and the alleged offender (or at least their employer), you can make a formal complaint with details in writing.  We can help you do this if you have difficulty doing it alone, or you can get someone to support you to do it as well.

A formal complaint must be in writing. We may ask you for a statement, so there is a record of your report, and ask for any documentary evidence.

We will advise the lawyer of the complaint, ask for their explanation, and gather available evidence.

We may take no further action, or make a decision depending on the impact of the behaviour.

For low impact behaviour, amongst other things, we may negotiate an outcome or issue a warning.

For high impact behaviour, we may:
  • audit or intervene in the law practice.
  • impose conditions on, suspend or cancel the lawyer’s practising certificate, which they need to engage in legal practice in Western Australia.
  • consider that it may be ‘unsatisfactory professional conduct’. We could issue a reprimand or a caution, require the lawyer to take actions, including further education or training, apologise, or pay a fine. We could place conditions on their practising certificate, or start a prosecution against the lawyer at the State Administrative Tribunal for a decision and orders.
  • consider that it may be ‘professional misconduct’. We may start a disciplinary prosecution against the lawyer at the State Administrative Tribunal.
  • we may apply to remove the lawyer’s name from the Supreme Court roll, so they cannot do any work that requires a qualified lawyer.
Please see our Regulatory Approach Statement here for an overview of our role as a regulatory body and the regulatory tools we use.
 
  1. Other options –
We may decide to refer the matter to WorkSafe WA, the Equal Opportunity Commission WA or WA Police.
 
  1. When should I identify myself?
You may identify, or de-identify, yourself at any stage you feel empowered to during the reporting process.

You will be required to identify yourself if you wish to make a formal complaint.

You can choose to withdraw the complaint at any time. However, we may speak to you about how else we can use your information.
 
  1. Will the Board investigate a report if it is not recent, or is there a time limit?
There is no time limit on most harassment reports to the Speak Safely Team. However, a formal complaint should normally be made within 3 years of the incident. There are exceptions -- where it is ‘just and fair’ to make a formal complaint after 3 years, or there is an allegation of professional misconduct and it is in the public interest.
 
  1. What if I report a person who is not a lawyer?
You can still make an informal report about their conduct. Under Work Health and Safety legislation, workplaces have a duty of care to create safe workplaces, including doing all things reasonable to remove or reduce risks of inappropriate conduct. Any information you can provide will help the Board work to improve the culture in the profession.
 
  1. What can I achieve through the reporting process?
The reporting process can:
  • give you multiple options about what to do.
  • refer you to support services.
  • help us target potential trends to audit, or introduce an education campaign, set standards, harness partnerships with other stakeholders, and other measures.
  • help prevent similar inappropriate conduct to you or someone else.
  • help change policies and culture in a law practice or barristers’ chambers.
  • lead to a resolution or outcome through the formal complaints process.
  1. Can the information in my report or complaint be obtained through freedom of information (FOI)?
We cannot guarantee that the information in a report will be exempt under FOI. However, personal information about someone other than the applicant is generally exempt from disclosure under clause 3(1) of Schedule 1 to the FOI Act.

Further information about FOI can be found on the website of the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The Speak Safely reporting tool
 
  1. What is Speak Safely?
Speak Safely is an online reporting tool designed to make it easier for you to report harassment, bullying and discrimination.

If you do not want to email or call us, Speak Safely offers a safe space to report harassment, discrimination and bullying, which you may have experienced or that you may have witnessed, to someone who can support you.

Speak Safely allows you to have conversations with, and ask questions of, a member of our Speak Safely Team, with the option to remain anonymous or give your name and contact details.

Speak Safely is available online 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

What are some key benefits and key features of Speak Safely?
 
  • You can remain anonymous throughout the process or give contact information.
  • Speak Safely has a ‘quick exit’ button so you can quickly leave the site if you are concerned about somebody looking over your shoulder.
  • A list of support services is included for your assistance and support.
  • You can select whether you want to be contacted or not, and your preferred method of communication.
  • Anyone can make a report, either the person who experienced the harassment or a third party or witness.
  • It’s not just filling in a form. There is a free text area where you can give as much or as little information as you like to best tell your story about what happened
  • There are some helpful prompts for you to use, if you are unsure what to write. You can upload documents and evidence directly into Speak Safely
  • You can communicate directly with one of our Speak Safely Team members.
  1. How does Speak Safely keep information secure?
Speak Safely's two-way encrypted messaging lets you to communicate with the Board whether or not you choose to remain anonymous.

All data that is submitted through Speak Safely is encrypted and secured with industry standard AES-256 cryptography.

This means that no-one aside from you and your contact in the Speak Safely Team at the Board will be able to view your data at any time.
 
  1. Where is the Speak Safely data stored?
The data recorded in the Speak Safely portal is stored in Sydney NSW at the Amazon AWS Data Centre.

Both AWS and Speak Safely developer are regularly audited for their data security and all data stored on the AWS server is encrypted and secure.