The Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended Te Awamutu lawyer Duncan Takena Stirling from practice on an interim basis from 22 December 2022.
The Standards Committee sought an interim suspension order in respect of Mr Stirling after laying two charges before the Tribunal. The Tribunal noted that the first charge was based on affidavit evidence that Mr Stirling had deceived his bank or misappropriated funds advanced for a purported settlement by diverting funds for his own use. The bank suffered a net loss of $85,000 after it used $15,000 held by Mr Stirling in a separate fund to mitigate its loss. Charge 2 indicated that Mr Stirling’s trust account dealings had been irregular for some time (although the Tribunal noted that the evidence was not as strong as for Charge 1).
Mr Stirling told the Law Society Inspectorate that he would repay the money to the banks, which led the Tribunal to comment that he did not seem to appreciate that obtaining and using the advance for his own personal reasons was wrong. The Tribunal found that Mr Stirling had “lost his moral compass in relation to trust moneys” and was a risk to the public and any bankers that he may engage.
The Tribunal therefore found that it was necessary or desirable to make the order suspending Mr Stirling from practice on an interim basis until the charges filed by the Committee are disposed of. Mr Stirling had consented to the order on a without prejudice basis. Mr Stirling has the ability to seek a review of the interim suspension.