Lawyer avoids suspension for drink-driving charges

The Auckland lawyer was sentenced to supervision and community work. File photo
The Auckland lawyer was sentenced to supervision and community work. File photo

An alcoholic lawyer who led police on a drunken car chase has avoided suspension.

Shane Alan Rohde was hauled before the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal (NZLCDT) after being convicted of driving with excess breath alcohol and dangerous driving in September last year.

He was sentenced to supervision and community work but it was not the first time he had been before the court on criminal charges.

The Auckland lawyer was also convicted of drink-driving in May 2014.

Before the tribunal, Rodhe admitted the indiscretions reflected on his fitness to practise and tended to bring the legal profession into disrepute.

The NZLCDT decided against suspending him from practising but stung him with a $10,000 fine.

He was also ordered to pay costs of $3806 to the New Zealand Law Society and to reimburse hearing costs of $1992.

The Tribunal said there was no evidence that Rohde's clients had been put at risk by his offending or the alcohol problem which led to it.

It noted that since his offences he had attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and was well supported by a sponsor, his family, his doctor and a number of his colleagues.

That sponsor, who provided a reference for the lawyer, was former MP John Banks, Fairfax reported.

The Tribunal considered Rohde's openness with his firm and other colleagues, and the steps he had taken to safeguard his sobriety were a sufficient safety net to conclude that the public, as consumers, did not need to be directly protected from him.

However, it did censure him, telling him that for a lawyer with a statutory and ethical obligation to uphold the rule of law, his conduct was appalling and had to be firmly denounced.

The Tribunal said Mr Rohde -- who is the director of Greenlane-based firm Lateral Lawyers -- was on notice that a rehabilitative approach was unlikely to be repeated.

"It is well recognised that lawyers have to maintain a very high standard of conduct, both when carrying out their profession and also as citizens of New Zealand," New Zealand Law Society president Chris Moore says.

"The question is always whether the public need to be directly protected as a result of the lawyer's conduct."

- NZ Herald

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