Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

High-profile lawyer suspended for drink driving

Photo / File
Photo / File

A high-profile West Coast criminal lawyer who tried to beat a third drink driving conviction by putting coins in his mouth, and unplugging the breath-testing machine, has been suspended for three months and fined $12,000.

Doug Taffs, 59, was found by the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal to have brought his profession into disrepute.

The Canterbury Westland Standards Committee brought the case against the Westport-based defence counsel after recording his third conviction for driving with excess breath alcohol.

Taffs, who has historic excess breath-alcohol convictions from 1981 and 1993, was caught again in March 2011 when he put coins into his mouth to try to contaminate the breath-test result.

He also unplugged the power cord from the evidential breath-testing machine in a police station and placed the cord in the drawer of a filing cabinet.

His ploy did not work, however, and he was convicted on his third drink-driving charge, as well as one of obstructing a police officer. He was fined $4000 and disqualified for 13 months.

At the time, Taffs accepted acting like a "complete prat", and admitted he'd had a "controversial career" in about 40 years of practising law.

He avoided a fourth drink-driving conviction last year when a judge ruled that police had unfairly obtained evidence against Taffs by following his car on to his property in August, 2011.

Two constables breath-tested him at his home, north of Westport, believing he might have driven from the nearby Pig and Whistle Hotel.

At a Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal penalty hearing in March, Margot Perpick, the lawyer representing the Canterbury Westland Standards Committee, said it was Taffs' attempts at avoiding detection that caused the professional body the most concern.

Taffs' legal representative Paul McMenamin accepted his client's conduct had been "bizarre" and "serious".

But he believed it amounted to a "moment of madness", and submitted "it is extremely doubtful whether the conduct of Mr Taffs brought anybody but himself into disrepute with any member of the public".

The tribunal, however, said that assertion did not sit well with an admission of the charge, which was worded to include an acceptance that the profession had been brought into disrepute.

"We consider a short period of suspension is necessary to reflect a proper response to the seriousness of the offending viewed overall," the tribunal concluded.


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