Barry Hart 'something of an outlaw'

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 14:46 11/12/2012
Barry Hart
PHIL DOYLE/ Fairfax NZ
STRUCK OFF: Barry Hart.

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Struck off lawyer Barry Hart was "something of an outlaw" who could not be controlled by the legal fraternity's professional standards, says a Law Society lawyer.

A 46-year veteran of criminal defence law, Hart is appealing against being struck off as a barrister after being found guilty of professional misconduct earlier this year. 

The Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal found that Hart had overcharged fees, obstructed an Auckland District Law Society investigation and did not pay the full amount to a private investigator he had hired. 

Hart has appealed on several grounds, including that the tribunal was wrong to go ahead with the hearing when he could not attend to defend himself due to illness, the overcharged clients got value for money, and that the punishment was excessive.

New Zealand Law Society lawyer Paul Collins said in court this morning that Hart's appeal had focused largely on whether he had overcharged clients, but the NZLS felt that his obstruction of its own investigation was also very important.

He said the NZLS needed to maintain professional standards and protect the public from unworthy lawyers.

"[This is] a person who has put himself outside legitimate regulation and accountability in his legal practice,"Collins said in court.

"This person, as demonstrated by his record, has become something of an outlaw in effect, and the key additional factor in that is a lack of insight and remorse."

Hart's counsel Anthony Trenwith argued against striking off as a penalty for the offences, proposing a less severe sanction of Hart having to be employed and supervised by another barrister.

Trenwith said there had earlier been a suggestion that Peter Williams QC might take Hart under his employment, although the proposal was not confirmed.

Chief High Court Justice Helen Winkelmann and Justice Graham Lang have reserved their judgment in the case this morning and intend to deliver a decision in early February.

Meanwhile, Hart will return to the High Court later this week to face bankruptcy proceedings brought by the ANZ. The bank called in a $30 million debt and sold all of his assets to meet the bill.

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