Lawyers give evidence behind closed doors

WHEN is a public examination not public? Apparently when legal eagles themselves have to be cross-examined.

Three Cooper Grace Ward lawyers were witnesses Monday at the public examination into the collapse of building company JM Kelly in 2018.

The smarty pants law firm had acted for JM Kelly as it spiralled towards collapse last year.

But unlike the rest of the public examination, the lawyers' evidence was not able to be heard by the public.

It is due to something called legal professional privilege, which is designed to prevent communications between a lawyer and client from subsequently being made public.

In some circumstances, it can be waived.

It's all a bit complex but while privilege had been waived in relation to JM Kelly Builders it had not been for a related company called JM Kelly Project Builders, which has a different liquidator.

Registrar Murray Belcher, who has been overseeing the public examination, told the court that as far as possible these "examinations are public examinations and should be held in public." But he understood that "would be very hard to manage" given that privilege had not been waived for JM Kelly Project Builders.