Former Gisborne and Tauranga lawyer Christopher Twigley has been struck off by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyances Disciplinary Tribunal.
Mr Twigley admitted six charges of misconduct on the basis he committed reckless contraventions of his obligations under the legislation and rules regulating legal practice.
After a disputed facts hearing the Tribunal found a number of aggravating matters proven which had a considerable bearing on the level of seriousness of the conduct.
The Tribunal said the facts were complicated and involved five separate situations of client interactions and attendances. The sixth charge related to the unsatisfactory state in which Mr Twigley left his files and computer records when he wound down his practice to move to Australia.
“The overall picture is of a man desperately fighting to save his practice and his career and in doing so taking a number of shortcuts and steps that were focused more on his financial viability than on his clients’ interests or deeds,” it said.
The Tribunal found that no penalty short of strike-off would be a proportionate response to what it said was very serious offending. In addition to the striking off order the Tribunal ordered Mr Twigley to pay $15,000 costs to the New Zealand Law Society and reimburse hearing costs of $5,566.
These amounts were reduced because Mr Twigley is currently employed in Australia on a minimal wage and is bankrupt.
New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck says the practice of law in New Zealand is regulated by a major statute and associated rules and regulations, with which all lawyers have to comply.
“The protection of lawyers’ clients is paramount and in this case the lawyer seems to have been reckless in how he acted in a number of matters. A very high standard of care and conduct is expected from all lawyers and the focus must always be on the interests of their clients,” she says.