14 Sep 2012

Tribunal rules prominent lawyer should be struck off

8:14 pm on 14 September 2012

The Law Society says only a successful appeal can prevent the career of Auckland defence lawyer Barry Hart from ending in disgrace.

The Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has ruled that Mr Hart be struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors after it found him guilty of professional misconduct.

In August this year, the tribunal ruled that Mr Hart had failed to pay a private investigator, obstructed the Law Society's investigation into his behaviour and over-charged a client.

The charges were brought by the Law Society. President Jonathan Temm said on Friday though Mr Hart has done a lot of good during his 46-year career, obstructing a society investigation is a very serious offence.

Mr Temm said all lawyers are under a professional obligation to assist the regulator of the legal profession with its inquiries.

He said Mr Hart's poor disciplinary record, coupled with his obstruction of the investigation, led the tribunal to decide he is no longer a fit and proper person to practise law in New Zealand.

Mr Temm told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Friday the tribunal has also ordered Mr Hart return $20,000 to a client who was charged $35,000 for the lawyer's services in 2008.

"He's also been ordered to pay a good deal of other costs, including the tribunal's costs and the Law Society's costs, and that'll be somewhere in the order of $140,000 by the time this is all finished.

"Subject to the appeal being dismissed, I'm confident that this is a career ending moment for Mr Hart."

Mr Hart says he has appealed against the tribunal's verdict and sentence.

He has been suspended from practising law, pending the outcome of his appeals.