Former Auckland and Hokitika lawyers suspended

by Sol Dolor03 Apr 2017
Two lawyers were recently suspended by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal for their involvement in separate crimes.

Former Hokitika lawyer Stephen Joseph Woulfe has been suspended for two months from 16 March 2017 after admitting to professional negligence or incompetence, which brought disrepute to the profession and cast doubt on his fitness to practice.

According to the tribunal, Woulfe said he witnessed the signatory of a document sign the form, that he saw original copy of identification, attached a copy of the ID used and the photos, names, and signatures matched the identification provided. The signature was a forgery.

The document was used by a cheat to defraud a company in a financing transaction. The tribunal said Woulfe was not part of the scheme, but his negligence was serious.

“It is crucial to the profession’s reputation and functioning that lending institutions have full confidence, not only in a lawyer’s honesty, but of his or her standards of diligence and care,” the tribunal said.

Woulfe, who had removed himself from practice and surrendered his practicing certificate, was censured, suspended, and ordered to pay the New Zealand Law Society $10,000 and pay the $5,056 costs of the hearing.

Meanwhile, former Auckland lawyer Marc Cropper has been suspended for three months from 24 March after being convicted of three offenses of possession of methamphetamine, a Class-A controlled drug.

Cropper, who admitted to the tribunal of being convicted of offenses punishable by imprisonment, did not contest the suspension. For his possession convictions, he was sentence to nine months supervision, a $300 fine, and $130 in court costs.

He had agreed in writing to the Law Society that he would be subject to two years of drug testing if he is granted a practicing certificate in the future. He told the tribunal that he is undergoing counselling and treatment for drug and alcohol addictions.

Cropper was ordered to pay the Law Society $5,000, and reimburse an undisclosed amount for hearing costs.


Related stories:
Former Auckland lawyer struck off for theft, overcharging
Auckland and Christchurch lawyers suspended from practice

COMMENTS

  • by Belcher 3/04/2017 2:19:20 p.m.

    It would be helpful to be have been told exactly what the Hokitika Lawyer was supposed to have done and the particulars of the failure.

    As I read the story the lawyer witnessed someone forge a signature.

    Exactly what steps were identified by the Tribunal that the lawyer failed to take to ensure that the person posing as the signatory was in fact the person named in the identification.

    Furthermore the headline that one lawyer was suspended because he "unwittingly helped a conman"; whereas "the other guy just liked his meth" is pretty poor journalism in my view. The inference is that being "unwitting" is somehow worse than being a meth user.

    This kind of writing in a supposedly professional magazine is just one reason that it goes straight from my PO Box into the recycle bin.