The National Standards Committee of The New Zealand Law Society v Anthony Paul Blair (Also Known as Paul Anthony Blair)

 
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[2015] NZLCDT 9

BEFORE THE NEW ZEALAND LAWYERS AND CONVEYANCERS DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL

CHAIR

Judge BJ Kendall (retired)

MEMBERS OF TRIBUNAL

Mr W Chapman

Ms C Rowe

Mr W Smith

Mr I Williams

LCDT 037/14

BETWEEN
The National Standards Committee of the New Zealand Law Society
Applicant
and
Anthony Paul Blair (also known as Paul Anthony Blair)
Respondent
Counsel

Ms R Reed for the Standards Committee

Respondent in person

Decision on penalty-the practitioner admitted one charge laid pursuant to s241(d) Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (LCA) that having been convicted of offences punishable by imprisonment, such a conviction reflected on his fitness to practise or tended to bring his profession into disrepute-practitioner convicted of possession of and selling cannabis, a Class C drug-offending involved “dealing” and there was a commercial element to the offending-whether the Class of the drug was relevant to the offending-whether strike off or suspension should be ordered.

The issue was whether B should be struck off; and, whether the class of the drug was relevant to the offending.

Held: The starting point for the consideration of penalty had to be strike-off. The distinguishing feature was that as a barrister, B had engaged in the sale of drugs to the public. This fact alone had to call into question his fitness to practise. The class of the drug he sold was immaterial to the offending.

B had not accepted that he had done anything wrong. There had been no expression of remorse for the offending. His inability to accept his wrong doing was shown by his repetition of bland statements that he had to accept the findings of the Court while indicating clearly that he maintained the story he gave the Courts and which had not been accepted.

If a penalty short of strike-off could be imposed, it ought to be ( Daniels v Complaints Committee No 2 of the Wellington District Law Society). The following factors were noted:

  • a. the absence of prior or subsequent disciplinary or criminal record;

  • b. the respondent's otherwise good character and advocacy work that he had carried out in the community;and

  • c. there was no evidence that this offending was not isolated.

B was suspended from practice for three years from 12 March 2015. He was to pay 50% of the Committee's costs of $5,100.00 and 50% of the Tribunal's costs of $3,191.00

DECISION OF THE NEW ZEALAND LAWYERS AND CONVEYANCERS DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL CONCERNING PENALTY
Introduction
1

The hearing of the Tribunal on 12 March 2015 was one concerning penalty. The practitioner has admitted one charge laid pursuant to s 241(d) of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 (“the Act”) that having been convicted of offences punishable by imprisonment, such a conviction reflects on his fitness to practise or tends to bring his profession into disrepute.

2

The respondent having admitted that charge, the Tribunal granted the applicant leave to withdraw the alternative charge of misconduct laid pursuant to s 241(a) of the Act.

3

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Tribunal reserved its decision.

Background
4

The respondent was found guilty by a jury in the Hamilton District Court of the two charges he faced being:

  • a. One count of selling the Class C controlled drug cannabis pursuant to s 6(1)(e) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

  • b. One count of possessing the Class C controlled drug cannabis (3 tinnies) for the purpose of sale pursuant to s 6(1)(f) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

5

The brief facts leading to the convictions are that the respondent was visiting a friend at a known tinnie house. Whilst there, he answered a knock at the door and, as it transpired, sold one cannabis tinnie for $20.00 to an undercover police officer. At the time of sale he was holding 3 other tinnies in his hand which led to the inference that it was for the purpose of future sale.

The Applicant's Submissions
6

Counsel for the applicant submitted that the starting point for the Tribunal when considering penalty was that all lawyers who deal in drugs are not fit and proper persons to practise unless that principle is displaced by strong mitigating factors.

7

She submitted that there were two main considerations for the Tribunal:

  • a. The misconduct itself including an assessment of the aggravating and mitigating factors of the misconduct.

  • b. An assessment of the practitioner's fitness to practise in the future which would include considering any previous disciplinary history and overall conduct within the proceedings. 1

Aggravating features of the misconduct
8

Counsel submitted the following:

  • a. The offending can be described as dealing and possession of cannabis for the purpose of such dealing.

  • b. There was a commercial element to the offending.

  • c. The charge was much more serious than possession simpliciter as is reflected in the maximum penalty for such an offence being 8 years imprisonment. 2

  • d. The category of drug supplied (although not as harmful as Class A and B drugs) does not undermine the primary point that the respondent was a lawyer who dealt in drugs in total disregard for the law and with disrespect for it.

Mitigating factors
9

It is the submission of counsel for the applicant that there are insufficient mitigating features in the respondent's case to weigh against the serious nature of his offending. He cannot rely on an addiction as an explanation for the sale as was the situation in Wootton3 and Thomson4. The...

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