New Zealand Law Society
Former Otago lawyer Greg Roderick Stewart has admitted two charges in the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal and has been suspended from legal practice for 18 months from 6 September 2016.
Mr Stewart, who voluntarily stepped down from practice before the hearing, has also been censured.
The first charge was one of negligence in his professional capacity of such a degree as to reflect on his fitness to practise or as to bring his profession into disrepute.
This resulted from trust account irregularities which included a failure to keep adequate records, having client balances overdrawn, failing to reconcile trust bank accounts with the trust ledger, and incorrectly certifying compliance with the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 and the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Trust Account Regulations) 2008.
The second charge was one of misconduct for breaching Rule 5.5.1 of the Conduct and Client Care Rules by providing banking services. The rule prevents a lawyer from operating a business which provides services to a client, unconnected with regulated services.
The Tribunal considered this charge to be serious because of the privileged nature of a lawyer’s trust account. The way this had been used as a selling point for banking services meant there was a serious risk of lawyers beaching their obligations to uphold the rule of law and facilitate the administration of justice in New Zealand.
Mr Stewart was ordered to pay the New Zealand Law Society costs of $16,000 and to reimburse hearing costs of $2488.
A New Zealand Law Society Press Release