Disgraced lawyer's 'life and career' at stake

By Edward Gay

Barry Hart. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Barry Hart. Photo / Herald on Sunday

Disgraced lawyer Barry Hart's "life and career" were at stake when he failed to show up to his own disciplinary tribunal because he was sick, a court has heard.

When the 71-year-old sent in medical certificates to the Lawyers and Conveyances Tribunal asking for an adjournment, the tribunal decided to hear his case anyway and eventually struck him off after finding him guilty of three misconduct charges.

Now the criminal defence lawyer with a 46-year career has appealed his case to the High Court at Auckland.

He sat in the public gallery today to watch proceedings which are being heard by Chief High Court Judge Justice Helen Winkelmann and Justice Graham Lang.

Mr Hart's lawyer Anthony Trenwith said the tribunal acted with too much haste when it decided to hear the case, despite Mr Hart not being present.

"It requires careful consideration for what is at stake and for Mr Hart - that is his career and his life."

He said Mr Hart had complained of fatigue, nasal congestion and a cough and his doctor had written a medical certificate to excuse Mr Hart from attending. The document was read in court today.

"In my opinion," Mr Hart's doctor said, "the defendant is not fit for any work, particularly court work for the next week."

"The medical records and medical notes show that it was not something that the defendant just conjured up."

He said his client produced medical certificates but the Law Society and the tribunal had "suspicions".

"It comes back to the question - how sick is sick? And really that's what we have doctors for," Mr Trenwith said.

He was asked by Justice Winkelmann how he was able to get to a doctor's surgery but not to the tribunal hearing.

A history of "poor" discipline

Mr Hart was found guilty of unsatisfactory conduct for overcharging on two occasions in 2010 and again a year later.

In its disciplinary decision, the tribunal said Mr Hart's case was aggravated by his "poor disciplinary history", which included seven previous findings against him.

One for "gross overcharging" was 30-years-old, but identical in nature to the latest case.

The pattern of behaviour meant the tribunal had "no confidence in either his rehabilitation or protection of the public by ensuring there is no risk of reoffending".

"We accept that striking off, particularly in a practitioner of such seniority, is a last resort response," said chairwoman Judge Dale Clarkson.

Mr Hart has also lost his multimillion-dollar properties northwest of Auckland after owing $30 million to the ANZ National Bank.

The bank has sold all but one of the properties.

Associate Judge David Abbott last month ordered Hart to vacate the last property so it could be sold by the bank.

In his decision released last month, Associate Judge Abbott also ruled that Hart was liable for the $20,543,951.92 which remained outstanding on his bank loan, and he must pay it back at a rate of 5 per cent per annum.

His companies Woodhill Stud and Woodhill Holdings were also liable for loans worth $16,170,727.11, which must also be paid back at a rate of 5 per cent per annum.

It has also been revealed that his fleet of luxury cars - including an Aston Martin and a 2011 Ferrari California - have been put up for auction.

- APNZ

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