The New Zealand Law Society has announced a new working group that will look into harassment in the legal profession.

The working group will be chaired by Dame Silvia Cartwright, and will consider if improvements can be made to enable better reporting to the Law Society of harassment in the legal profession.

Cartwright was a District Court Judge from 1981, Chief District Court Judge from 1989 and appointed to the High Court in 1993.

She served as Governor-General from 2001 to 2006 and then took up a position as one of 13 international trial judges on the United Nations Tribunal investigating war crimes in Cambodia. She served on the tribunal until 2014.

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The other members of the working group include Jane Drumm, Philip Hamlin, Joy Liddicoat and Elisabeth McDonald.

Jane Drumm, General Manager of Shine, a national charity to target and prevent domestic abuse and family violence. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Jane Drumm, General Manager of Shine, a national charity to target and prevent domestic abuse and family violence. Photo / Kellie Blizard

Drumm is the general manager of Shine, a national charity to target and prevent domestic abuse and family violence. Before this, she worked as a victim adviser for Auckland District Court and as a probation officer for 13 years.

Hamlin is an experienced criminal barrister, who was admitted to the bar in October 1982. He is a former Crown Prosecutor. His areas of legal expertise include sex crimes, child abuse and homicides, expert evidence, pornography and computer internet crime.

Liddicoat is the assistant commissioner of policy and operations for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

She was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in August 1988 and took up her current role in January 2015. Her career has also included eight years as a commissioner with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, legal practice, and seven years as director of the Domain Name Commission Ltd.

McDonald is a professor of law at the University of Canterbury.

She worked at the Law Commission on secondment for two years and her research focus has been in criminal law, the law of evidence, law and sexuality, and feminist legal theory.

Joy Liddicoat, Assistant Commissioner of Policy and Operations for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Photo / Supplied
Joy Liddicoat, Assistant Commissioner of Policy and Operations for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Photo / Supplied

The formation of the group comes after former staff members of top law firm Russell McVeagh spoke out about sexually inappropriate behaviour by lawyers towards summer law clerks.

Controversy also arose around the Otago University law camp following a series of allegations of nudity and jelly wrestling.

The working group is required to consider whether the existing regulatory framework, practices and processes enable adequate reporting of harassment or inappropriate workplace behaviour within the legal profession.

It will also look at how better support can be provided to those making reports of sensitive issues, and the adequacy of the regulatory framework to enable effective action to be taken where such conduct is alleged.

The working group will report to the New Zealand Law Society.