Lawyer warned on conflict of interest after sheep dipping tank case
A barrister has been reprimanded for acting in a case where he ought to have known he had a conflict of interest.
The 2017 annual report of the Barristers' Professional Conduct Tribunal reveals the practitioner was advised about his conduct and forced to undergo ethics training.
However, the barrister has not be identified by the tribunal, whose hearings are held in private.
According to the report, it received 36 complaints last year, up from 33 in 2016.
The report said one barrister was "admonished for his misconduct". The case in question is thought to be one relating to a land dispute, one of 10 case studies contained in the report.
Complaints were not upheld in the other nine.
According to the report, the barrister defended a farmer who was prosecuted in the district court for allegedly building a sheep dipping tank without planning permission.
But in a subsequent case the same barrister went on to represent parties who were making an adverse possession claim for the farmer's land.
Although the conflict of interest was mentioned to the judge in the second case, no determination was made on the issue by the court.
The report found the farmer had a reasonable concern that confidential information learned by the barrister during the first case might be disclosed in the second one.
It also found the due administration of justice required that the barrister should not have acted against the farmer in the second case.
Three complaints received by the tribunal last year related to alleged conflicts of interest.
A wide variety of other types of complaints were also received.
Nine complaints alleged that counsel was incompetent.
Six clients complained about opposition counsel. The report said these complainants possibly misunderstood the role of counsel on the other side of their case.
Three complaints related to the alleged actions of barristers outside their role as an advocate, while two concerned allegations counsel acted dishonestly.
Two complaints involved allegations of "serious rudeness".
The report said 13 appeals of tribunal decisions were heard by the Professional Conduct Appeals Board last year, one of which was allowed, and another allowed in part.
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