New Zealand Law Society - Lawyer struck off over dishonesty with trust money

Lawyer struck off over dishonesty with trust money

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

A former Dunedin lawyer who only paid the contents of a trust account back after a former client complained to the New Zealand Law Society has been struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors.

Richard James Woodhouse was struck off by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.

He admitted a charge of misconduct but did not attend the hearing.

Mr Woodhouse’s misconduct relates to action he took before ceasing practice in 2009.

He had held funds in his trust account on behalf of an overseas client which by 2006 amounted to $13,275. On ceasing practice in 2009 he failed to pay the money to his client in breach of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Trust Account) Regulations 2008.

The money was not repaid until 2015 when his former client contacted the New Zealand Law Society about the missing money.

Mr Woodhouse repaid $17,000 which included interest.

The prosecuting lawyers standards committee submitted that Mr Woodhouse had misappropriated the money and he only repaid it when his former client complained about it.

New Zealand Law Society Executive Director Christine Grice says the honesty and trustworthiness of lawyers is something the public should be able to have complete faith in.

“Mr Woodhouse’s behaviour is not reflective of the honesty and ethical behaviour that the vast majority of lawyers are committed to. There is no place in the profession for dishonesty,” she says.

In addition to striking Richard Woodhouse off the roll, the tribunal ordered Mr Woodhouse to pay the New Zealand Law Society costs of $8,500.