Barry Hart is a ‘victim of his own success’ – lawyer
UPDATE: Barry Hart’s lawyer says the success of his practice became so great that he couldn’t keep up with everything, causing some cases to suffer.
The high-profile crime barrister has today attended a penalty hearing after earlier being found guilty of professional misconduct.
Mr Hart grossly overcharged clients and obstructed the lawyers and conveyancer’s disciplinary tribunal by delaying proceedings by not providing certain documents.
His lawyer, Greg King, told the tribunal striking off is the “ultimate penalty” and would have a detrimental impact on Mr Hart’s otherwise distinguished career.
Mr Hart has agreed to pay a refund of $20,000 instead.
Mr King says there were failings in “communication and business administration, and in some respects he can be seen as a victim of his own success".
“As he became more widely known for his skills, the demand for his services has increased exponentially.
“When you’ve got one case too many, it’s not one case that suffers, it’s all of them.
“This is apt to describe someone who’s sole practice became a sizeable practice without perhaps keeping up to date with the necessary administration means to deal with it,” Mr King says.
He also made much of Mr Hart’s 46-year legal career, during which he did much pro bono work, and “built up a reputation as a very experienced, skilled, leading lawyer”.
However, Law Society lawyer Paul Collins says using Mr Hart’s profile is no excuse for his actions.
“This lawyer cannot say that he was caught off guard because he was caught unknowing in his professional responsibilities.
“He is absolutely without excuse, and the sort of excuse a junior lawyer might be able to persuade a tribunal of, shouldn’t be taken into account.”
The tribunal has reserved its decision.
The Law Society’s standards committee wants disgraced defence lawyer Barry Hart struck off after he grossly overcharged a Samoan family and withheld documents.
Earlier this month, the lawyers and conveyancers disciplinary tribunal found Mr Hart guilty of professional misconduct.
A penalty hearing is under way at the Auckland District Court, in which Law Society lawyer Paul Collins is asking for Mr Hart to be struck off.
Mr Hart is present in court, with high-profile barrister Greg King acting for him.
Mr Collins has told the tribunal Mr Hart “lacks insight into his wrongdoing and the harm he has caused, and an absence of remorse”.
There is a lack of confidence Mr Hart “will not continue to fail professionally in the manner we’ve seen in this case”.
Mr Collins says there is a “need for the tribunal to establish and reinforce and maintain the standards and the reputation of the legal profession".
“Striking off is required. Anything less than suspension would be inadequate to ensure the public confidence in the legal profession.”
Mr Hart’s actions demonstrate an abuse of his “status as a member of the legal profession, an abandonment of responsibility to the point of contempt and actual harm to the interests of the public and the standing of the legal profession," Mr Collins says.
The hearing continues.