Disgraced lawyer leaves clients "destitute"

by Mackenzie McCarty30 Apr 2014
In February this year, NZ Lawyer reported on disgraced lawyer Eion Castles, who was struck off by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal. The tribunal found Castles guilty of gross overcharging for rendering fees of $943,721.54 when a fair and reasonable fee was only $462,000.

Castles was ordered to repay his victims, Auckland couple Min and Alan Wilson, $428,000. However, three days before his penalty hearing, Castles declared himself bankrupt, leaving the Wilsons destitute.

Retired District Court Judge, current deputy chair of the Lawyers' Disciplinary Tribunal and close friend of the Wilsons, Bernard Kendall, recently contacted NZ Lawyer to describe the Wilsons’ situation.

“Our friends Min and Alan Wilson’s nightmare began in 2005 with their first lawyer naming them instead of their family trust as plaintiffs in their leaky home proceedings.  The proceedings were then out of time to allow a change of plaintiff.

“Over a period of years [Castles] charged them legal fees of more than $1 million, which was assessed by two barristers appointed by the Law Society to be at least $600,000 too much.”

Castles lack of payment to the Wilsons has left the couple “destitute”, says Kendall.

“They have no home, no money, no investments and are living in a rented 60sqm cottage that is very old and run down.  Their furniture is threadbare and their elderly car is rusting. After selling their house to pay fees, they house sat for friends and moved 29 times,” he says.

“On top of all this, Alan, 71, is in his fourth year of chemotherapy for liver cancer.  Min, aged 68, still works as a sales rep and they both get National Super but Alan is not well enough to work.”

In an effort to aid the Wilsons in getting their lives somewhat back to normal, Kendall and his wife Diane, along with Richard and Joylyn Yates, have set up a donation fund on charity website Give a Little.

As of time of writing, the site had raised $33,395.00 for the Wilsons – a good start, but far from the hundreds of thousands they lost. If any NZ Lawyer readers wish to donate, please follow the link here.