Lawyer goes on trial

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CHARGED: A lawyer has gone on trial in Napier for alleged misuse of client funds. PHOTO FILE
CHARGED: A lawyer has gone on trial in Napier for alleged misuse of client funds. PHOTO FILE

A long-standing Napier lawyer has today gone on trial on 11 charges relating to alleged misuse of client funds totalling $1.581 million.

Appearing before Judge Colin Doherty and a jury of nine women and three men in Napier District Court, Gerald George McKay, 74, former partner in now closed firm McKay Hill, pleaded not guilty to five charges of theft, five of dishonestly using documents and one of a criminal breach of trust.

Trusts identified in charges of theft by failing to account were R. and T.J.Johnston Family Trust, J.L.Heyne Estate, and R. and E.Evans Trust, while those identified in charges of dishonestly using documents with intent to obtain a pecuniary advantage were Kaimai Palms Gold Resort Ltd, Fore World/School Development Ltd, Central Mortgagee Trust Advances, Barton-Ginger Holdings and Estate A Paxie.. The remaining charge identified the McKay Hill Lawyers Trust Fund.

Offences are alleged to have occurred between June 15, 2005 and June 1, 2010, and in a trial dating back to the first laying of charges almost five years ago, Crown prosecutor Chris Lange, of Christchurch, is expected to call 20 witnesses.

The trial is scheduled to last two weeks. McKay is represented by Napier barrister Scott Jefferson.

In his opening address Mr Lange said it was alleged McKay illegally used funds from the firm's trust accounts to fund the operations of the firm.

When he became aware in 2010 that a Law Society investigator would be arriving to examine accounts, McKay allegedly exclaimed to a member of his staff "words to the effect of ' "We're done for'," Mr Lange said.

It was alleged he then used backdated invoices in an attempt to conceal the misappropriations, and Mr Lange told the jury they would hear from all of the clients involved denying they had received such invoices.

The case is still proceeding.

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