18 Mar 2015

Tribunal explains Davina Murray decision

6:35 pm on 18 March 2015

Davina Murray had three complaints upheld against her in the space of her five-year legal career, including billing her ex-partner's estate for more than $60,000, despite assurances there'd be no bill.

The Lawyers and Conveyances Disciplinary Tribunal barred Ms Murray from being a lawyer in February and issued their reasons today.

The decision showed that not only did Ms Murray act for her partner in a domestic related matter, but when the relationship ended she talked to her ex-partner's wife and passed on confidential information.

That was found to be a serious breach of confidence. She was censured, fined $5000 and ordered to pay costs.

When her partner died, Ms Murray sent bills to the man's estate for her legal work, totalling $67,500, despite numerous emails making it plain there would be no charges.

She was ordered to cancel the bill, fined $10,000 and pay costs.

That all came before Ms Murray was convicted and sentenced to 50 hours' community work for smuggling contraband to convicted rapist and murderer Liam Reid inside Mt Eden Prison.

The tribunal found in February that Ms Murray was no longer a fit and proper person to be a lawyer.

She had introduced false evidence to the court when defending the charge, by blaming corrections officers for planting the contraband.

The tribunal found that to be a serious breach of ethics and reprehensible conduct for a trial lawyer.

It also said the court had to have absolute confidence in the integrity of lawyers, but Ms Murray had shown that no such confidence can be placed in her.

The tribunal also criticised Ms Murray's behaviour before the hearing.

During a pre-hearing telephone conference, Ms Murray allowed Reid to listen in.

The tribunal only found out about this when the Department of Corrections sent them a recording of the call.

When Ms Murray was challenged on it, her response was to question the legality of the tribunal getting the recording.

She later admitted it was her fault but never apologised.

The tribunal concluded that Ms Murray had little or no understanding of her ethical obligations to her clients, the profession or to justice.

Ms Murray escaped being billed with costs because she was a bankrupt.

She has previously said she will appeal the decision to have her struck off.