Lead Article – July 2020


Conduct Money – How Far Will $30 Stretch?

Whilst subpoenas can be an efficient way of ensuring that witnesses appear in Court, they are generally discouraged by experts and are usually not required. Instead, there has always been a positive relationship between the medical and legal professions and the concept of interposing experts between clinical commitments, but still at times to suit the Court, has usually been possible.

Occasionally, we do receive subpoenas accompanied by conduct money. I received one just last week. I was directed to appear in the Court in Sydney on a Tuesday morning at 10:00am for a three-day hearing. I was informed that I would have to be present at 10:00am on all three mornings until I was called to appear, no ifs and no buts.

A cheque was pinned to the subpoena. It was for the grand sum of $30.

I live in Queensland. Getting to Sydney, staying somewhere reasonable (not necessarily a flea pit) for three nights and having the occasional hamburger for sustenance would all obviously amount to much more than the 3,000 cents that were proffered.

Even if sufficient money was supplied to get me there and back, house and feed me, no allowance had been made for the professional fees that would be incurred. Under normal circumstances, I would be obliged to cancel clinical and operating lists, disrupt a normal workflow pattern for three days and sustain considerable costs.

In reality, it is always best that Court appearances are arranged by mutual consent with proper allowances for time and fees. Disruptions should be minimised on both sides.