Saturday, August 6, 2016

No jail for Napier lawyer convicted for breaching trust

A lawyer has been sentenced to home detention and community work for breaching the trust of clients.

Richard Henry Hill,  of disgraced law firm McKay Hill, was sentenced in Napier District Court last week.

Judge Michael Crosbie said Hill, 70, "knowingly and dishonestly converted client funds" from the McKay Hill partnership in an unauthorised manner.

"The purpose of the dishonest conversion was to meet the firm's expenses, including wages and partners' drawings," Judge Crosbie said in sentencing notes.

Judge Crosbie said Hill's offending was in stark contrast to that of his former partner.

Remorseless Gerald George McKay stole $556,000 from clients' trust fund accounts and estates, and was jailed earlier this year on a raft of charges.

"Unlike your former partner Mr McKay, it is not suggested that you are responsible for any loss of clients' funds," Judge Crosbie said at Hill's sentencing.

Hill was found guilty on one representative count of a criminal breach of trust committed between October 1, 2003 and June 14, 2005.

During that time, Hill was a partner in McKay Hill.

Hill first faced one charge of criminal breach of trust at the court in 2011.

He and McKay were investigated after irregularities were uncovered in the law firm's trust account.

The judge said Hill had a "very public fall from grace" and was remorseful.

"The impression I gained was that you were effectively using your clients' funds as your banker.

"The conviction alone will carry more weight for you than many, as it often does for offenders who have led an otherwise exemplary life and are well known in the community."

He said Hill had no "relevant previous convictions". Those factors and others, along with the health of Hill and his wife, brought the sentence down from two years to 18 months, so the judge could consider home detention.

Hill's wife had Alzheimer's disease and the former lawyer was her primary caregiver.

The sentence was cut further, to 8 months' home detention, but with 100 hours' community work added.

McKay Hill held funds in trust for clients in a solicitors' trust account.

McKay, 74, was sentenced in Napier District Court in April after a jury trial.

He was found guilty of five charges of theft, five charges of using a document for pecuniary advantage, and one representative charge of criminal breach of trust.

According to the Law Society website, McKay was suspended but Hill still had a practising certificate.

Full Article & Source:
No jail for Napier lawyer convicted for breaching trust

No comments: