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Campus News : December 2011
8 Campus News December 2011 University of Wollongong www.uow.edu.au Alumni graduates of our university... THOMAS SPOHR Bachelor of Arts 2006 Bachelor of Laws (Honours) 2006 These days Thomas Spohr is likely to be found prosecuting people who play Russian roulette. Although he dreads to admit it, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) senior solicitor played a round of his own when he put his fate in a random lottery of UAC codes only to stumble on the fortune of an Arts/Law degree at the University of Wollongong. "I'm afraid it's an embarrassing story," Thomas said. "My years-long schoolboy ambition to be a pilot having been thwarted shortly after finishing the HSC, I decided I was going to take a gap year overseas. I think I might have felt at the time I was being terribly clever by showing how much I didn't care about my future. "When it came time to make application for university courses, I put more or less random numbers into the UAC form," the former Peakhurst High School student said. Following an overseas jaunt his number was called and Thomas soon realised that the path to Law at UOW may have been more of a case of destiny than luck. "I suppose it appealed to me that here was a profession where my inability to avoid expressing an opinion was actually encouraged," he said. "My first subject in Law was taught by Associate Professor Colin Thomson. His extraordinary enthusiasm convinced me to give Law a proper go, and as it happened I had a little academic success early on. "So it was that I managed to find my calling by something almost like a throw of the dice. I don't recommend it as a life plan, though. I could just as easily be now telling you about how it came to be that I did a five year degree in something I hated, and so for a living I make hats and other fashion accessories for circus animals to sell on Ebay," he joked. During Thomas' five years as a legal practitioner he has had some intriguing high profile cases. Earlier this year he prosecuted Rajina Sibramaniam, one of Australia's biggest individual frauds, found guilty of embezzling $45 million from her employees over five years. The fascinating case involved 600 pieces of designer jewellery, allegations of blackmail, high-end shopping sprees and items that included Michael Jackson memorabilia. Thomas says his most satisfying case however is less well known. "I had the extraordinary pleasure of defending a number of refugees who were prosecuted because of a protest they'd conducted in front of the Parramatta Town Hall, " he said. "They were charged with a number of offences for trying to bring attention to the events of a civil war in their homeland, Sri Lanka, by staging a sit-in and a hunger strike. "The charges seemed, to me, unjustified. All the more so since, of all places, they ought to be entitled to protest outside a town hall. I managed some success in cross examining the various police involved and eventually the court agreed with me and the three young men were acquitted. "It was the kind of thing you dream about when you're at Law School -- doing a pro bono matter about important human rights issues." In addition to his work commitments Thomas has presented evidence before State Parliament on law reform and policy matters, is treasurer of the NSW Young Lawyers and president of its Criminal Law Committee. MC BRYAN DOYLE Graduate Certificate in Management 1998 Member for Campbelltown Bryan Doyle credits his time studying at UOW in 1998 with igniting a passion for study that set him on the path to senior positions in the NSW Police and, eventually, a political career. The former Chief Inspector of Police won the seat of Campbelltown for the Liberal Party at the NSW state elections in March this year, securing a 22 percent swing. Mr Doyle said an "inspirational" time at UOW, after being selected for a police development program for officers identified as having leadership potential, had been a turning point in his career. "The central component of the program was undertaking a Graduate Certificate in Management at UOW," he said. "For me, UOW was where my love of academic study really kicked in. I can always remember the advice given by Professor Michael Hough which led to me embracing tertiary education. "The two-week full time seminar programs were just inspirational. I was prepared to accept the challenge of new ideas and to subject them to critical analysis and thought. From policing to politics -- via UOW Member for Campbelltown Bryan Doyle Thomas Spohr Lawyer finds the correct code