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Rickards faces hurdle to become lawyer

By Craig Borley

Disgraced former police assistant commissioner Clint Rickards could face a Law Society interview panel in his quest to become a lawyer.

Mr Rickards has finished his legal training, but to become a lawyer he now needs to be admitted to the bar.

He has applied for admission - usually a rubber-stamping exercise - but could face difficulties, Auckland District Law Society president Keith Berman told the Herald yesterday.

While it was unusual for an applicant not to be accepted, it was not unheard of. Once or twice a year people were refused admission, Mr Berman said.

Louise Nicholas, whose rape complaint against Mr Rickards ended in his acquittal in March last year, said she would "definitely" make a submission against the "extremely intimidating" man being allowed to practise law.

Women's Refuge staff member Tracey Swanberg said she was stunned by Mr Rickards' application.

"There's a vast part of the population that believes Louise Nicholas, so there will always be an issue with credibility. I just find it difficult to take seriously."

Mr Rickards, who resigned from the police in November, was listed in the August 29 issue of Law News as having applied to the Auckland District Law Society for a character approval certificate.

He has been studying law at Auckland University and has applied to the High Court in Auckland for admission as a barrister and solicitor.

Mr Berman said the process was usually very simple. Most current applicants came directly from law school and had character references.

"For 98 per cent, it's routine. But you get the occasional ones where people have been in the workforce and doing something else for a few years. With those people, obviously you need to know a little bit about what they've been doing."

That could include the unusual move of an interview, as Mr Rickards' high-profile case made his application unique, Mr Berman said.

If the Law Society didn't give Mr Rickards a character approval certificate, he would have to go before a judge, who would ultimately decide his fate.

Any members of the public can make written submissions on Mr Rickards' character to the Law Society before September 12.

Public opinion in itself would not influence the society's decision, Mr Berman said, "but the facts that give rise to that public opinion might".

If Mr Rickards' case did require more investigation than the average applicants', he would have to wait until the end of the year to hear his fate, Mr Berman said.

In a poll on the nzherald.co.nz website, 84 per cent of participants said they thought Mr Rickards should not be admitted to the bar.

- NZ Herald

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