Clint Rickards deemed fit to be lawyer

Former assistant police commissioner Clint Rickards has been deemed a "fit and proper person" to practise as a lawyer by the New Zealand Law Society.

Mr Rickards, who was last year acquitted along with Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum of raping Louise Nicholas in the early 1980s, completed a law degree after resigning from the force following the scandal.

He applied publicly to the Auckland District Law Society as a matter of course to be accepted as a practising lawyer, but the organisation passed his application to the New Zealand Law Society.

After considering a number of applications for and against Mr Rickards' admission, the society's Fitness for Practice Committee granted him a certificate of character.

The Law Society's president, John Marshall QC, today said opposition to Mr Rickard's admission to the Bar was mainly prompted by "two high profile criminal trials".

"I'd like to emphasise that the committee that heard this application agonised over it," Mr Marshall told Radio New Zealand.

"It heard all the evidence and the members of that committee are highly respected and very experienced lawyers from right around the country."

But he said the committee decided "there were insufficient grounds to refuse a certificate of character".

He said it noted that:

* The trials involved conduct that occurred over 20 years ago.
* The applicant had since had a distinguished career in the Police
* The applicant was acquitted of the historic charges
* If the Law Society refuses a certificate of character, the applicant can apply to the High Court for admission and, in other cases, the Court has taken a "forward looking" approach.

Ms Nicholas was one of those who sent in a submission on Mr Rickards' application.

In an extract obtained by the Herald on Sunday she wrote that Rickards should not be admitted to the bar because of his previous "abhorrent behaviour".

"Clinton Rickards had his opportunity to clear his name and prove his alleged innocence by way of the police internal disciplinary hearing last year but chose not to clear his name in the 11th hour and resigned from the New Zealand police," she said.

"... My concern is for women who have been sexually violated and will inevitably come up against him in a court room."

Mr Rickards told the Herald on Sunday that he had not done anything illegal and deserved another chance.

"I have given 25 years to the community and it's a further extension to the studies I have done over the years. I did a business degree, I have done a Masters degree and the public policy area interests me and law interests me because it's time I gave back to my community."

Mr Rickards said he loved being in the police but it was "time to move on".

"I have worked as a police officer in South Auckland for a number of years and I've seen the problems that exist there. I just want to give something back. With my 25-28 years' experience, I am in a unique position to give back to my people because it's got to stop [he means abuse, violence].

"Instead of people talking down to these groups, we have to start listening to these people. I feel as a Maori, in my time as a police officer - which I really enjoyed - you have to listen to what these people tell you."

"I loved being in the police but, hey, it's time for me to move on and law is a great profession. It is an area I want to be a part of. I want to be a person that contributes to a community."

- NZHERALD STAFF and NZPA

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