Disgraced criminal defence lawyer Sacha Beacham has narrowly avoided being struck off as a barrister after a string of alcohol-fuelled offending.
The Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has decided by "a fine margin" to censure and suspend the former Hawke's Bay lawyer for two years rather than strike her off completely.
Its decision comes after Beacham pleaded guilty to two charges of bringing the profession into disrepute and one charge of misconduct.
The Law Society last month sought to have Beacham struck off after she racked up five convictions, including three for drink-driving and one each of resisting arrest and obstructing police.
Beacham acknowledged problematic alcohol use had caused problems in her personal life and contributed to her offending, but denied she was an alcoholic.
She apologised to the tribunal and sought to be suspended rather than struck off.
In his decision, released this week, Judge Dale Clarkson said Beacham was "clearly in denial about her alcohol dependence".
Just months after she reassured the tribunal last year that she had given up alcohol, Beacham was taken into custody for being abusive and offensive to police officers.
Judge Clarkson said she regretted losing the career she loved, but had not sought the help needed to satisfy the tribunal she could safely practice again.
"While we accept her regret and apology as sincere, this does not equate with insight such as to reassure us about rehabilitation and therefore a lower risk of reoffending.
"We consider that the practitioner requires a significant period to reflect upon this."
The 40-year-old lawyer has given up her practice in Hastings and moved to Auckland, where she is waiting tables part-time at the swanky Kermadec Restaurant on the Viaduct.
Judge Clarkson said he was concerned she was working in a job "where alcohol must be a daily temptation".
He said she was a lawyer with ability and promise but she needed to work on herself before she could practice again.
An attempt to reach Beacham for comment was unsuccessful.