NZ lawyer censured after assault charge

by Hannah Norton19 Jun 2015
A Thames former lawyer and police officer has been censured by the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal after being convicted on a charge of male assaults female (MAF).

Dugal Matheson was first found guilty of the charge in the Hamilton District Court in 2013. The incident occurred in 2011, when Matheson still had a practising certificate.

Matheson appealed to the High Court, and his appeal was dismissed on 3 June last year.
A report released by the New Zealand Law Society today refers to the Tribunal’s February 2015 decision.

The majority of Tribunal members (3) found a short period of suspension would be suitable to mark the seriousness of the matter, but a minority disagreed. A suspension requires at least five members in agreement.

“A conviction for violence of this sort must of itself bring the profession into disrepute and this is accepted by Mr Matheson in his guilty plea.

“However, having said that, we do accept Mr Matheson’s submission that the publicity surrounding his hearing and the appeal focused on his previous role as a police prosecutor rather than as a lawyer, so in that respect we take that into account.”

Mitigating factors included the fact Matheson fully co-operated during the disciplinary process, that he had not defended the amended charge and that he had sought counselling and completed a “Living Without Violence” programme.

“It is clear that [Mr Matheson] has had a 20-year career in the police force and has a long and previously unblemished career. His references, which are many and impressive, attest to his dedicated public service and we consider he ought to receive considerable credit for that.”

The Tribunal imposed the formal sure “to mark the profession’s disapproval of any form of domestic violence”.

The Tribunal also ordered Matheson to pay $6,700 Law Society costs.