A West Auckland criminal defence lawyer who was investigated by a private detective over an income protection claim has been struck off.
The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal found Robyn Philippa Joy Fendall guilty of professional misconduct by reason of disgraceful or dishonourable conduct in relation to the insurance policy she held and cashed in on.
Fendall made two claims under the policy despite saying she had not received any income or been involved in unpaid work during the first claim.
She received 16 payments over three months, and filed false declarations for a number of months during a second claim, not disclosing legal work and court appearances she had made during that time.
Her insurer hired a private investigator to carry out surveillance of Fendall and later terminated her income protection insurance policy.
Fendall repaid $450,016 to the insurer and was complained about to the New Zealand Law Society.
From 2004 to 2009 Fendall was paid more than $2.5 million from the public purse.
In October 2009 Fendall was suspended by the Legal Services Agency for allegedly overbilling as a supervising duty lawyer at the Waitakere District Court in West Auckland.
In 2011 Fendall pleaded guilty in the Tribunal to a charge of misconduct in her professional capacity relating to making excessive claims for legal aid payments to which she was not entitled. She was censured and ordered to pay costs.
The Tribunal said Fendall's conduct was at the serious end of the spectrum. It ordered that she be struck off with effect from August 24.
"It is essential that members of the New Zealand legal profession must be totally honest in everything they do. Anyone who engages a lawyer must be able to expect that they will be obtaining advice and services from a totally trustworthy individual," Kathryn Beck, president of the New Zealand Law Society said.
"When a lawyer is found to have made false statements or declarations for any reason, the integrity and reputation of the whole profession is threatened."
Fendall said had nothing to say when approached by the Herald.