Ex-mayor taken off lawyers' roll

Former Waipukurau lawyer Hugh Hamilton has been struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors after admitting deceiving a client over the use of $62,000.

The banishment followed a New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal hearing in Hastings on Monday.

The New Zealand Law Society had brought charges of misconduct against the lawyer, who served six years as Central Hawke's Bay's first mayor.

A law-society statement said that in admitting the charges, Hamilton accepted he had intentionally and dishonestly deceived a client about the recipient and intended use of $62,000 advanced by that client.

Contrary to what he led the client to believe, Hamilton used the funds to repay debt owed by a company of which Hamilton was sole director.

The tribunal made formal orders striking him off and ordering compensation of $20,000. Costs were reserved, as were the full reasons of the tribunal for the orders made.

Society president Chris Moore said it had been made clear in recent tribunal and High Court decisions that the name of a lawyer or former lawyer would be struck off the roll if the tribunal was satisfied that by reason of their conduct they were not a fit and proper person to be a legal practitioner.

"Everyone who is, or who is eligible to be, a practising lawyer must meet certain standards of conduct," Mr Moore said. "These standards are high." Few professions or occupations had legislation prescribing the way in which a member must act in relation to clients and others.

The number of lawyers disqualified each year was considered "low", but the society wouldn't hesitate to act if necessary if it believed there was an issue with the conduct of a lawyer or a former lawyer, Mr Moore said.

Mr Hamilton, admitted to the bar in 1975 and now in his 60s, has not held a legal practising certificate from mid-2011 since leaving Waipukurau firm Davidson Armstrong and Campbell, with which he had been for more than 20 years.

He is now also facing unrelated charges laid by the Serious Fraud Office linked to a multimillion-dollar finance company collapse, and a court hearing has been set for early next year.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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