26 Feb 2015

Changes after struck-off lawyer's actions

7:07 pm on 26 February 2015

Disgraced former lawyer Davina Murray's actions have changed the way lawyers are treated by prison staff.

Wellington High Court

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Ms Murray was struck off today by the Lawyers and Conveyances Disciplinary Tribunal, despite not showing up to the hearing.

The move comes after she was sentenced to 50 hours community work in October 2013 for smuggling contraband to convicted rapist and murderer Liam Reid inside Mt Eden Prison.

Ms Murray said she planned to appeal against the decision to strike her off and her counsel advised her she had strong grounds.

She said an appeal she lodged against an earlier decision by the tribunal to remove her practising certificate was already proceeding through the High Court, with her next appearance set for 24 March.

Today the tribunal's chair, Judge Dale Clarkson, said Ms Murray's history was so serious that no response other than striking Ms Murray from the role of barristers would be appropriate.

Judge Clarkson said Ms Murray was no longer a fit and proper person to be a lawyer. She said the Tribunal would deliver full reasons in writing

Claim of erosion of trust

Law Society lawyer Mark Treleaven said during her criminal trial, Ms Murray blamed two Department of Corrections officers for the contraband and alleged a conspiracy.

He said she knew the evidence was false and described her behaviour as reprehensible.

Mr Treleaven also spoke of three charges of unsatisfactory conduct that went before the Standards Committee.

They included a breach of former client confidentiality.

On another occasion, she billed an estate for over $60,000, despite giving assurances that there wouldn't be a charge.

Ms Murray's lawyer Warren Pyke said Ms Murray had not got to grips with what she had done until he came on board and she was remorseful.

Judge Clarkson asked why Ms Murray hadn't fronted up and said her no-show was a disappointment.

Auckland Prison at Paremoremo.

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The case has also impacted on the access lawyers have to their clients.

Mr Treleaven read from an affidavit of a prison manager who spoke about an erosion of trust.

He said after Ms Murray smuggled cigarettes, a lighter and a cell phone to Reid, he felt he could no longer rely on the integrity of the profession.

The manager also spoke of how the prison had initially helped Ms Murray by moving Reid from the high security prison at Paremoremo to Mt Eden to make it easier for her to visit.

Since the hearing, Law Society president Chris Moore has released a statement to say Ms Murray's offending threatened the easy access lawyers have to their clients, which underpins the justice system.

He said Ms Murray's actions were in flagrant disregard of that trust.

Mr Moore said Ms Murray's abuse of the relationship resulted in a review of prison security and increased restrictions on visits by lawyers.

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