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Love leads to conveyancing legend

He’s a stalwart of the industry but Mark Spiegelhauer’s career, that’s now etched into Townsville conveyancing legend, might not ever have happened if not for falling in love.

Conveyancing in Townsville will never quite be the same again after the retirement of industry stalwart, and all-round good guy, Mark Spiegelhauer this month.

After 44 years and around 30,000 conveyances Mark is believed to be the longest serving conveyancer in Queensland,

Despite doing the job for almost half a century he says he still loves it and is proud of the legacy he is leaving behind.

Then
Now

Q&A

How does it feel to be retired after almost half a century with conveyancing legend status?

It’s quite interesting because, I’ve still lgot my first ever pay slip somewhere and I think I started on about the 7th or 8th of September, so it’s almost 44 years to the day since I started out.

It was a bit scary walking in on the last Monday of my working life, I’ve never been unemployed a day in my life that I didn’t want to be.

I’m grateful to the team at Purcell Taylor. They’ve looked after me, I’ve looked after them. It’s been two-way street and I’ve loved working here and it is going to hurt to leave.

“I’m now acting for grand children of my clients from 30 years ago”

Conveyancing legend – Mark has completed around 30,000 conveyances

What are you most proud of about your career?

I’m most proud of the mateship, the friendships and the respect I’ve achieved over the years with all sorts of people; my peers, my clients and financiers – they respect my advice and I’m proud to say I don’t think I’ve ever let them down.

I have some clients who have stuck with me from the start and I’m now acting for grand children of clients from 30 years ago.

It makes you proud to have made an impression on somebody so many years ago and they remember it, so it must have been a good experience.

Everybody is amazed that I stuck it out for so long because many people who’ve done the job, never want to do it again. The pressure is high, the turnarounds are fast and often the hours are long.

I’m on call 24/7. It’s not uncommon to get a phone call at night or on weekends from agents or clients wanting some urgent advice or wanting some particular contract clauses put into the system. My home office is set up – I’ve got everything at home that I have here.

That’s the sort of service people want and need.

How did you get into conveyancing to begin with?

When I was in high school I was a bit of a sportsman and all I wanted to do was become a P.E. teacher. The only P.E. course was in Brisbane at the time and you needed the equivalent of a O.P. one (1) to make it in.

I decided to repeat year 12 to get a higher score, which I did. But as fate would have it I met a young lady called Mandy and that would change my entire outlook.

Chasing a P.E. teaching career would have meant leaving Townsville and leaving this beautiful girl behind so I decided to stay and instead started studying commerce, economics and law at JCU.

Luckily I married that girl and 41 years later she’s still putting up with me.

Then
Now

But all my friends had apprenticeships, so they had money and I didn’t and about eight months into studying I decided to leave uni and take up a job specialising in Wills and estates and property work at a the Union-fidelity Trustee Company.

When that role ended in around September 1981, a conveyancer role came up at a major local firm. I applied and was successful and as they say, the rest is history.

I’ve been at Purcell Taylor Lawyers now for the past 11 years and they are just wonderful people to work for.

“I loved the thrill of the chase, I still do. But I’m glad to be getting out now, I think my used by date recently passed and I have other things on my mind.”

How has conveyancing changed over the years?

It has changed dramatically. Up until about seven or eight years ago you would have the local bank manager attend settlements with a bank cheque and they would take such pride in doing a personal job with clients.

Then is started to become centralised in larger cities and we lost a lot of the local representatives. Nowadays we’re also dealing with people offshore. So the personal touch has definitely been lost over the years.

The process itself has also changed and there are lot more hoops to jump through just to to organise a settlement. Soon it will all shift again to an electronic system, which is the way of the future in conveyancing.

So, I’m getting out just at the right time so that I don’t have to learn it (laughs).

Mark has passed on his vast experience and knowledge to the new conveyancing team

Why have you chosen to retire now?

This (retirement) has been in planning for over 12 months. I was actually supposed to retire in January but I stayed on until Purcell Taylor were able to bring together the right conveyancing team and I’m happy to move on now.

My wife Mandy retired two months ago and she’s saying ‘where the heck are you?’ (laughs).

What does a conveyancing legend do in retirement?

We’ve both worked hard and also raised two beautiful girls together who are both married now, so it’s just us at home.

Mandy and I have plans to do some travelling around Queensland (COVID-permitting). My family has a little house in Cardwell so we go up there and do some fishing, play a bit of golf and generally just kick back and enjoy time with family.

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Reporting child sexual abuse – the law

Failure to report now a criminal offence

Reporting child sexual abuse – changes to the Queensland Criminal Code to better protect children from sexual abuse

Section 229BC of the Criminal Code (Qld) now makes it an offence for an adult to fail to report information to police about child sexual abuse, in circumstances where the adult has a reasonable belief or ought reasonably to cause the adult to believe, that a child has been offended against or is a victim of child sexual abuse.

So here are some need-to-know facts about the new law:

Why change the law?

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (‘the Royal Commission’) conducted an extensive five-year (between 2012 and 2017) inquiry.

The result was 85 recommendations aimed at reforming the criminal justice system in Australia to provide fairer responses to victims of institutional child sexual abuse.

The recommendations covered police and prosecution responses; sentences and appeals; evidence of complainants; and relevantly, the recommendation of ‘failure to report’ and ‘failure to protect’ offences (Recommendations 33-35).

These offences were recommended in light of the under-reporting of child sexual abuse within an institutional setting to external governmental authorities where abuse was known or suspected. 

In adopting the ‘failure to report’ recommendation, the Queensland Government has made it mandatory for adults (anyone over 18 years of age) to disclose information to a police officer about child sexual abuse (past or present).

This is irrespective if the alleged child abuse is within an institutional setting.

When does this law come into play?

It came into effect on 5 July 2021.

This means that if you are an adult who has gained relevant information about child sexual abuse on or after 5 July 2021, you may be subject to this mandatory reporting obligation.

This means that if you are an adult who has gained relevant information about child sexual abuse on or after 5 July 2021, you may be subject to this mandatory reporting obligation.

How do you know if you have to report information about child sexual abuse?

If a person meets the following criteria, they may be required to disclose information to a police officer:

  1. The person is 18 years of age or older (‘the adult’); and
  2. The adult has gained information which causes them to believe on reasonable grounds or ought reasonably to cause them to believe, that a sexual offence is being or has been committed against a child by another adult; and
  3. The adult gained this information on or after 5 July 2021.
What is ‘reasonable belief’?

A reasonable belief is not defined in the legislation. In simple terms, a reasonable belief is a belief that a reasonable person would form with the same information and in the same situation. A reasonable belief is always dependent on the circumstances.

Information which may form a reasonable belief includes a child disclosing they are currently a victim of child sexual abuse. 

Are there any exceptions/excuses to this offence?

Yes. There are some circumstances where an adult does not have to report information about child sexual abuse to police.

These exceptions include:

  1. The adult believes, on reasonable grounds, that the information has already been disclosed to police (for example, if the adult was made aware of the child sexual abuse by the child’s teacher and such information has already been reported to police); or
  2. The adult has already reported the information under the Child Protection Act; the Educational (General Provisions) Act or the Youth Justice Act or believes on reasonable grounds that another person has done or will report under these Acts (for example, you are a schoolteacher who has gained information about child sexual abuse and you have reported this information to your Principal); or
  3. The adult has gained the information from an adult victim (who discloses that they were sexually abused as a child) however the adult reasonably believes the adult victim does not want this information disclosed to a police officer (for example, the adult victim explicitly states they do not want to make a complaint); or
  4. The adult reasonably believes that by disclosing the information to police would endanger the safety of the adult or another person (other than the alleged offender); or
  5. Failure to disclose the information to police is a reasonable response in the circumstances.
Will there be consequences to the adult who discloses information to police about child sexual abuse?

Providing the adult discloses the information in ‘good faith’, the adult is not liable civilly, criminally or under any administrative process for making the disclosure to police.

What is the penalty?

The maximum penalty for this offence is three (3) years imprisonment. The offence is classified as a misdemeanour and therefore can be disposed of summarily (that is, in the Magistrates Court).

How to report

I may have a reasonable belief about child sexual abuse, so how do I report this information?

You can attend or telephone your local police station and speak with a Police Officer.

You can also contact PoliceLink on 131 444 or in an emergency situation contact 000.

Remember, you must disclose the information to a police officer as soon as reasonably practicable after you have the belief or ought to reasonably have the belief.

If you are unsure if you must report information to police, seek legal advice.

What happens if I have been charged with this offence?

If you are being investigated and/or charged in relation to this offence, it is important that you immediately seek advice from a lawyer with criminal law experience.  

For more information:

You can check out:

  1. The Royal Commission’s Final Report at: https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/final-report
  2. The Royal Commission’s Final Report Recommendations at: https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/recommendations
  3. The Queensland Government Website – ‘Failing to report sexual offences against children’. https://www.qld.gov.au/law/crime-and-police/types-of-crime/sexual-offences-against-children/failure-to-report
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