The New Zealand Bar | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa acknowledges today’s judgment by the High Court, following an appeal by the Standards Committee, which increases the suspension of James Gardner-Hopkins as a practicing barrister by two years at the maximum period of three years.
The High Court regarded Mr Gardner-Hopkins’ misconduct as serious and said “it is conduct which is wholly unacceptable in the legal profession”.
The judgment recognizes the importance to the public and the profession of being able to trust that those entering the profession will be safe and treated with respect, and of ensuring that misconduct is dealt with appropriately in a way that the profession and the public expect.
The High Court ruling means Mr Gardner-Hopkins cannot practice as a lawyer in New Zealand for three years. The sanction imposed also means that Mr. Gardner-Hopkins will not automatically be able to work as a lawyer after his suspension ends in February 2025.
Following the suspension, he will have to apply to the Bar for a new certificate of practice and he will have to prove that he is fit and suitable to be a lawyer again.
The Law Society recognizes the time this case has taken to progress and the effect it has had on the women involved.
As an organization, we have already made changes to our process to make it more suitable for sensitive complaints like this. Other changes to make the complaints system faster, more victim-focused and transparent require changes to our legislation.
Additionally, the Independent Review of Legal Services in Aotearoa New Zealand is currently consulting with the legal profession and the general public to identify the changes needed for modern and effective regulation and representation of the legal profession in Aotearoa New Zealand. -Zealand.
The Law Society has already adopted the recommendations of the inquiry led by Dame Silvia Cartwright, including mandatory reporting obligations for sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination and other inappropriate workplace behavior within the legal profession, clearer standards of behavior and protection for “whistleblowers”.
The High Court concluded that “Mr Gardner-Hopkins’ actions were serious. All the young women were particularly vulnerable. Regardless of his physical presence and the age difference between them, as a partner in the firm, Mr. Gardner-Hopkins was responsible for their safety and well-being.”
The Law Society will continue to focus on bringing about positive change for the legal profession and the general public.
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