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Censure and fine for sharing Landonline password

01 December 2017

[Names used in this article are fictitious]

A lawyer has been censured and fined $8,000 by a lawyers standards committee for sharing his Landonline digital certificate password.

The Registrar-General of Land asked the Lawyers Complaints Service to investigate the lawyer, Seyton, after he shared the password four times.

Seyton accepted that he breached the digital certificate terms and that this occurred four times, the committee said.

He accepted that this breached rule 11.4 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008, and that it was unsatisfactory conduct.

Rule 11.4 states: “A lawyer must take all reasonable steps to prevent any person perpetrating a crime or fraud through the lawyer’s practice. This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure the security of and access to electronic systems and passwords.”

A footnote to the rule says: “The protection of passwords and systems will include the protection of digital certificates and associated passwords, and passwords, usernames, and personal identification numbers relating to electronic banking.”

“In attempted mitigation, [Seyton] advised that it was a trusted staff member who he allowed to use the certificate, a person [in whom] he had considerable confidence. He said at the time he did not think there was any risk involved and he did not realise the seriousness of his breach,” the committee said.

However, the committee said it considered his regret or apology was “hollow”, because despite having been reprimanded by the Registrar-General after each instance, he breached the rule four times.

The conduct was at the “higher end” of the scale of unsatisfactory conduct, the committee said.

As stated on Land Information New Zealand’s website: “The security of the Landonline system is vital. Licences and digital certificates are two of the measures we have in place to ensure the integrity of New Zealand’s land records.”

In setting the fine at $8,000, the committee took account of Seyton’s disciplinary history – two previous findings of unsatisfactory conduct.

As well as the censure and fine, Seyton was ordered to pay $1,000 costs. The committee also decided to give written notice of its determination to the Registrar-General of Land and directed that the NZLS publish the facts of the matter.

Last updated on the 1st December 2017