New Zealand Law Society - Lawyers Complaints Service: Suspended for cannabis offences

Lawyers Complaints Service: Suspended for cannabis offences

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Anthony Paul Blair (also known as Paul Anthony Blair) has been suspended for three years from 12 March by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.

In [2015] NZLCDT 9, Mr Blair, who is not currently practising, admitted having been convicted of offences punishable by imprisonment which reflected on his fitness to practise or tended to bring the profession into disrepute.

A jury in the Hamilton District Court found Mr Blair guilty of selling cannabis and possessing cannabis for the purpose of sale.

While visiting a friend at a known tinnie house, Mr Blair answered the door. He sold one cannabis tinnie for $20 to an undercover police officer and at the time of sale was also holding three other tinnies in his hand. This led to the inference that it was for the purpose of future sale.

Strike-off must be the starting point for the consideration of penalty, the Tribunal said in its decision.

“It views the respondent’s offending seriously. The distinguishing feature is that as a barrister he engaged in the sale of drugs to the public. This fact alone must call into question his fitness to practise. The class of the drug sold is immaterial to the offending.”

The Tribunal said it took into account the following factors when deciding that a penalty short of strike-off could be imposed:

  • Mr Blair’s otherwise good character and advocacy work that he has carried out in the community; and
  • that there is no evidence that this offending has been other than isolated.

The Tribunal concluded that Mr Blair should be suspended and that the period of suspension should reflect the seriousness of the offending.

The period of some four years’ voluntary suspension since the offending “has not persuaded us to impose a shorter period of suspension when it is considered that he would likely not have obtained a practising certificate,” the Tribunal said.

Although Mr Blair asked that no costs orders be made against him because he had low income, debts and no assets, the Tribunal ordered him to pay half the Law Society’s costs of $5,100 and half the Tribunal’s costs of $3,191.

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