Lawyer-to-be avoids prison

By Chloe Johnson

A law graduate has avoided a prison term despite deliberately taking the wrong man for DNA testing to get her ex-partner's name removed from her son's birth certificate.

The 33-year-old woman, who now lives in Masterton, was sentenced in the Auckland District Court this week to three months' community detention for preventing the course of justice. She has been granted permanent name suppression to protect her son's identity.

Crown prosecutor Claire Robertson said a term of imprisonment was usually warranted for such a crime, but she did not think it was appropriate given mitigating factors, including her duty as a mother and the impact it would have on her becoming a lawyer.

Defence lawyer Owen Harold sought a discharge without conviction so she could become a barrister, obtain a private investigator's licence and travel overseas.

Judge David Wilson, QC, said the offending related to a "poor decision" when she took a male friend into Auckland's DNA Diagnostics clinic in June 2010 and falsely introduced him as the biological father of her 2-year-old son.

The man provided a DNA sample for a legally binding paternity test which showed he was not the father.

As a result, the real father's name was removed from his son's birth certificate.

During a battle over visiting rights, a Family Court judge picked up the discrepancy and reported the woman to police.

Late last year, Waitakere District Court Judge Simon Maude requested new DNA samples and soon after the mother asked DNA Diagnostics to destroy the samples she had requested.

In an affidavit to the court, the mother claimed she wanted the biological father off the scene because she feared for her safety after their volatile relationship ended.

Judge Wilson said, "I can understand your motivation but it does not excuse the lengths to which you went."

He said the biological father became anxious and stressed after being told he had been removed from the birth certificate.

The father, who also has name suppression, said he was disappointed with the sentence.

"She got off lightly for lying in court, supplying false documents and wasting thousands and thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money and police time," he said.

New Zealand Law Society general manager regulatory Mary Ollivier said a conviction would not stop people becoming registered lawyers.

- Herald on Sunday

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