Convicted accountant allowed to practise

MATT NIPPERT
Last updated 16:08 27/02/2013

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A Kiwi whose life collapsed in a cloud of mental illness and a string of violent criminal acts in the United Kingdom will be allowed to continue working as a chartered accountant here.

His name and the details of his deportation from the United Kingdom have been kept secret pending appeal.

The New Zealander - who has interim name suppression imposed by the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accounts Disciplinary Tribunal - faced charges of bringing his profession into disrepute following a guilty plea and conviction for attempted robbery and possessing an offensive weapon.

The accountant was sentenced to 20 months in prison in the UK on the charges and on release was deported to New Zealand.

In a Tribunal hearing today in Auckland the man admitted the convictions, but said in submissions the charge of possessing an offensive weapon related to his attempts to fend off two Staffordshire bull terriers.

The accountant also disclosed to the tribunal five further criminal episodes resulting in guilty pleas and convictions in the United Kingdom over a period of 16 months.

Offending during this period included a road rage assault, public drunkenness, smearing faeces around a police cell, breaking into his former matrimonial home and stealing passports, threatening his ex-wife and relatives with violence, and brandishing a knife at an acquaintance in a church.

In correspondence with the tribunal, the man said at the time of his offending he was breaking up with his wife, attempted suicide twice, and was for a time "living rough" in a forest after being evicted from the family home.

He described the criminal behaviour as "completely out of character" and it had occurred when he was "desperate and distressed".

Niamh McMahon, the accountant's lawyer, said her client had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder while behind bars and this mental illness was a contributor to his offending.

She said the bipolar disorder was now being managed appropriately with medication.

McMahon said her client had disclosed his criminal past when replying for NZCIA membership and sought no sanctions, but wanted his identity to be kept permanently suppressed.

She said publication of the accountant's name would jeopardise his $100,000-a-year job and future employment prospects.

"Sensational articles appearing in the paper would cause him embarrassment - not only to him, but also his parents and his employer," McMahon said.

Michael Reed, QC, acting for the NZCIA's Professional Conduct Committee, did not challenge the suppression request and said the case was "particularly unusual".

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Reed left any decision on penalties and censure to the tribunal, but sought regular medical certificates from the accountant's doctor to ensure his bipolar disorder was being appropriately managed.

"Subject to your wishes [the Professional Conduct Committee] are prepared to see him given a chance," Reed said.

Tribunal chairman Jim Hoare said while the criminal activity in the United Kingdom fell far below standards expected of accountants, the man's previously unblemished record, frank disclosure and rehabilitation since returning to New Zealand counted in his favour and no penalty would be imposed.

Hoare declined the accountant's request for permanent suppression, but ruled an interim suppression order should remain in place for 14 days to allow a possible appeal.

McMahon said she would consider the ruling, and her client's instructions, when asked whether an appeal would be pursued.

The accountant was also ordered to provide annual medical updates to the NZCIA and pay $9572 in costs.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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