Convicted lawyer Richard Hill struck off

Hill had taken client funds from the partnership. 

It has been a long time coming, the president of the New Zealand Law Society says, but Napier lawyer Richard Hill has been struck off.

The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal decided Hill should no longer be allowed to practise last week, but its written reasons are yet to be released.

Hill was found guilty in the Hastings District Court of a charge of criminal breach of trust. This related to offending in his capacity as a lawyer and trust account partner in his previous law firm, McKay Hill. 

A judge found Hill had "knowingly and dishonestly converted client funds" from the McKay Hill partnership in an unauthorised manner, Fairfax reported at the time. 

He was sentenced to eight months’ home detention and 100 hours of community work.

Although he had also been suspended from practice since August last year, the tribunal has ordered Hill to pay costs to the Law Society of $57,050.

Hill being struck off concludes a disciplinary process that began seven years ago when the Law Society charges were originally filed. They were adjourned pending the criminal charges being concluded, along with an appeal.

New Zealand Law Society president Kathryn Beck says: “Although it has taken some time to conclude this matter the Law Society has again ensured that lawyers live up to the ethical standards required of the legal profession,” she says.

She added that this is a clear example of what not to do and in this case while the lawyer pleaded ignorance of what he had done, this garnered no sympathy from judges in the criminal courts.

Ms Beck says there are more than 1400 trust accounts held by various law firms and that the rules around solicitors’ trust accounts are pretty clear.

“We have a very active inspectorate which looks into trust accounts, which should be audited every couple of years and the inspectorate has  risk profile which it looks at.”

Last year his former partner Gerald George McKay was given a four and a half year prison sentence after being found guilty of an array of charges including theft, dishonesty and using a document for pecuniary advantage.

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