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Crown calls for 17-year sentence for lawyer who stole

The Crown called for a lawyer convicted of stealing almost $500,000 from his clients to be jailed for more than 17 years yesterday.

However, the defendant argued that the court should sentence on the basis that a jury accepted that he had acted under duress.

Tyrone Quinn, 37, was found guilty in November of three counts of theft by a unanimous verdict after a jury found that he had taken a total of $483,000 from compensation payments to his clients.

During his trial, the court heard that between May 2020 and February 2021, Quinn received awards on behalf of three clients in separate legal matters.

Of the three clients, two received a small portion of their award, while the third received none.

Quinn acknowledged in court that he had received the funds for the clients but said he had no intention of permanently depriving them of the money.

He told the court that he had been approached by two men in 2019 over a “problem” related to an illegal business transaction and that they had demanded compensation.

Quinn said he did not know the men or their “problem”, but he complied with their demands after they threatened him and his family, paying them thousands of dollars and making a range of payments on their behalf.

The defendant acknowledged that he had also used the funds to make payments unrelated to the threats or the clients but maintained that he had always intended to give his clients what they were owed.

At a sentencing hearing yesterday, Alan Richards, for the Crown, said Quinn had “robbed Peter to pay Paul”, noting that he had admitted using some of the complainants awards to pay other clients.

“He may have put himself in a position where he was compelled to act dishonestly, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t dishonest,” Mr Richards said. “He clearly was.”

He added that while Quinn had claimed he had paid much of the funds to “unscrupulous individuals” who had threatened him, the fast and unanimous verdict of the jury suggested that the defence had been rejected by the jury.

Mr Richards read victim impact statements from two of the victims, who both said that they had been forced to rely on the kindness of friends and family to make ends meet because of Quinn’s actions.

Jenna Riley told the court that she had lost her job because of injuries suffered in a car accident but had to stop medical treatments because she could not afford them.

“I not only have to relive the trauma of my accident and recover, I have to pay for it too,” Ms Riley said.

She later added that Quinn had left her feeling betrayed and untrusting and that he appeared to continue “unbothered” as she struggled for the past three years.

“He was supposed to act in my best interests but all he has done is use my pain for his own selfish interests,” Ms Riley added.

Jacqueline Trott said Quinn’s actions had hindered her physical rehabilitation, adding that her life has been “on hold” for the past three years.

“I just want my health back so I can participate in my grandchildren’s life and watch them grow,” she said.

Mr Richards said that because the conviction covered three separate incidents involving different complainants, the court should order all sentences to run consecutively.

He suggested sentences of 8 years, 5 years and 4½ years for the three counts, which would add up to 17½ years behind bars.

Mr Richards also expressed doubt about Quinn’s ability to repay the complainants, given that he had not yet done so, and suggested that the court order a confiscation inquiry to determine how the complainants could best be reimbursed.

Quinn, however, maintained that he intended to fully reimburse all three of the complainants and that he aimed to pay back two of them in a matter of weeks.

“Even from Westgate, I’m making every effort to make sure these individuals are being sorted,” he said.

Quinn argued that the jury had been told that he could be found guilty if he had stolen a portion of the money, which meant his conviction did not mean that the jury had rejected his duress defence for a portion of the funds.

He said that if there was any dispute as to what the jury had found, the courts should lean towards the version that was more favourable to the defendant.

Quinn maintained his claim that he had acted under duress after he was threatened by persons who he declined to name or describe, stating he was still concerned for his family’s safety and describing himself as a victim.

“I would not have done these acts if it were not for the pressure I was put under,” he said.

Quinn apologised to the complainants, his employees, his family and the courts, and said that the threats had caused him to run his business erratically.

Mr Richards had said Quinn’s story about the threats was “tailored”. Quinn responded: “If a woman were to have complained about sexual assault and Mr Richards used similar words to what you heard here, the ‘Me Too movement’ would have been all over Mr Richards.”

The comment, however, sparked a quick caution from Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe, who said he did not accept the analogy.

“I’m struggling to see how you would draw any correlation between your victimisation of three complainants to the tune of almost $500,000 and the very real trauma that victims of sexual abuse and assault, rape, discrimination based on sex, what they go through,” Mr Justice Wolffe said.

“You shouldn’t even mention those very real circumstances in the same sentence as what you by our own perception are going through.”

Quinn responded that he was a supporter of women’s rights and had intended no disrespect towards women.

The hearing will continue today but the final sentence is not expected to be delivered until next month.

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