Barry Hart's health deteriorating, court told

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 13:26 16/07/2012
Barry Hart
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
ACCUSED: Auckland lawyer Barry Hart speaks with media outside the Auckland District Court in 2009.

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A tribunal hearing into misconduct allegations against prominent Auckland barrister Barry Hart will go ahead despite Hart's inability to attend due to illness.

Hart's lawyer Nigel Cooke told the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal today that Hart was facing "horrendous" financial problems and his health was deteriorating mentally and physically.

However, the tribunal decided not to adjourn the hearing for a fourth time, saying the matter had been delayed long enough.

A doctor who had provided medical certificates to vouch for Hart's absence due to "chest pains, breathing difficulties and fatigue" has refused to attend the hearing.

The tribunal chairman Judge Dale Clarkson declined Hart's application to adjourn the hearing.

"This is not a situation where the respondent's absence will mean the evidence goes unopposed," she said.

As Hart could not represent himself and Cooke said he would not be the one to argue the case, the tribunal decided it could fill that role by exercising its "inquisitorial" role to test the evidence against Hart.

Law Society Standards Committee lawyer Paul Collins said he believed any prejudice to Hart's case would be his own fault.

In response to the decision Cooke asked for the hearing to start tomorrow morning so that another lawyer could be assigned.

"This man is facing serious and horrendous financial problems - I've seen the man deteriorate physically and mentally."

The hearing is due to begin at 2pm.

In February Hart lost a long-running battle to keep his name secret over allegations that he over-charged fees, obstructed the Auckland District Law Society's investigations by refusing to hand over a client's file and did not pay a private investigator he had hired the full amount for his services.

The Law Society Standards Committee alleges the $35,000 he charged a client for court appearances in November and December 2008 was ''grossly excessive'' and amounted to misconduct.

It is also alleged that he engaged in either misconduct or conduct unbecoming a barrister for not telling a private investigator he had hired that payment was contingent on legal aid.

He did not tell the investigator of an alternative should the Legal Services Agency refuse the cost and he did not honour the full payment of the account, the Standards Committee alleged.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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