17 Dec 2014

Disgraced lawyer loses tribunal appeal

5:52 am on 17 December 2014

Disgraced lawyer Davina Murray claims she has never been convicted for smuggling contraband to a convicted rapist and murderer inside Mt Eden prison - despite being found guilty and sentenced.

Mt Eden Prison

Photo: RNZ

Ms Murray has appeared before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal where the Law Society said her conviction brought the profession into disrepute and reflected on her ability to practise as a lawyer.

But Ms Murray's lawyer Warren Pyke said there was no mention of a conviction against Ms Murray's name in the official court record. He said a criminal conviction was so important that it could not simply be left off the court record.

Mr Pyke said there was no evidence that the District Court judge had convicted Davina Murray and that could render her sentence invalid.

The tribunal hearing stems from Ms Murray being found guilty last year of smuggling cigarettes and an iphone into the Auckland jail in 2011.

The items were later found on Liam Reid, who is serving a 23-year sentence for killing Christchurch deaf woman Emma Agnew in 2007 and for raping and attempting to murder a university student in Dunedin nine days later.

Ms Murray defended the charge, alleging that the prison guards had planted the contraband.

After being found guilty, she applied for a discharge without conviction, but Judge Russell Collins declined the application and sentenced her to 50 hours of community work.

The Law Society's lawyer, Paul Collins, said the judge found the charge proven and then declined Ms Murray's application for a discharge without conviction.

He pointed the tribunal to court decisions, including one by Justice Venning in the High Court when Ms Murray appealed. He said those documents make it clear there was a conviction.

Mr Collins said leaving out the word "convicted" from the formal record could not cancel the result of the guilty verdict.

The Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal agreed.

Paul Collins then made submissions that Davina Murray's conviction had brought the profession into disrepute and reflected on her fitness to practise.

Mr Collins said an important aspect of the charge was Ms Murray's false accusation against the prison officers.

He said an affidavit from the prison manager shows Ms Murray's behaviour had violated the trust of prison authorities and resulted in more rigid rules around lawyers meeting with their clients in prison.

The prison manager said he could no longer rely on the integrity of the profession when making decisions that affect public safety.

Ms Murray's lawyer Warren Pyke in response said the tribunal should focus on the conviction and the offending - not the way it was defended.

After a brief adjournment, the tribunal found the charge has been proven and a penalty hearing has been set down for February next year. Ms Murray will find out her future in the legal profession then.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs