Hamilton lawyer suspended for four months

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 10:52 15/08/2014

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A Hamilton lawyer has been suspended from practising for four months after being found guilty of misconduct charges.

However, Christopher [Kit] Michael Clews, 64, is allowed to complete his current work before his suspension kicks in on October 1.

Clews was found guilty by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal of two charges of misconduct: one for breaching solicitor-client privilege, and one for a reckless breach of the conflict of interest rules.

The solicitor-client privilege breach involved Clews releasing information to the Crown Law Office after his client had not officially given him a privilege waiver for him to do so.

The second incident involved Clews re-engaging with his former client when another lawyer was involved.

When contacted by the Waikato Times, Clews said the incidents were "entirely regrettable".

"One makes mistakes and it was an error of judgment on my part."

The suspension means he can't do lawyer reserved work until January 31, next year. "It precludes me from court appearances and completing court documents and also those certificates which require signing off by a solicitor with a practising certificate.

"Fortunately the tribunal was good enough to allow me to complete my present commitments. The effects on my practice are yet to be seen, but I will soldier on while I retain my sense of humour as before."

Clews was also censured, ordered to pay costs and to do such practical training and education as required by the New Zealand Law Society.

Two other lawyers were also sentenced for misconduct. Wellington lawyer Christopher Verrier Jones admitted one charge of breaching trust account regulations.

The breaches included using his trust account for private transactions, allowing his interest in the trust account to become overdrawn on three occasions, and failing to keep records disclosing the position of money held on trust.

He was censured, fined $7500, ordered to pay costs, and to continue to engage an expert who has been assisting him with maintenance of his trust account during the past year. Jones is also required to complete further training in trust account management.

Auckland lawyer Stephen Charles Potter admitted a charge of misconduct after failing to comply with requests from a New Zealand Law Society inspector and failing to comply with a lawyers' standards committee order that he provide specified trust account records.

Potter was suspended from legal practice for three months, prohibited from practising on his own account until authorised, and ordered to pay costs.

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belinda.feek@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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