9 Dec 2022

Complaint lodged against anti-vaccination lawyer Sue Grey 18 months ago unresolved

7:05 am on 9 December 2022
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Lawyer Sue Grey Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

A woman who complained to the Law Society about lawyer Sue Grey has expressed concern the anti-vaccination campaigner is being allowed to exploit her platform to spread misinformation.

Grey was in court representing parents who were refusing to let their baby son - in need of urgent life-saving heart surgery - have the blood of people vaccinated against Covid-19 during a necessary blood transfusion.

Yesterday, the court appointed medical guardians to decide on the baby's hospital care.

Grey has been an outspoken anti-Covid-19 vaccination campaigner, using social media to get her message out. She has made false claims about Covid-19 related deaths.

In May last year Jacinta lodged a complaint about disinformation being spread or hosted on Grey's social media site, including calls for hangings and referring to the prime minister as 'the poisoner' who needed to be aborted.

The complaint has yet to be resolved. It is understood there were other similar complaints made.

Jacinta, whose surname RNZ agreed not to use, told Checkpoint it was irresponsible of Grey to promote her controversial views while acting as a lawyer.

"I have never seen any sign of her saying that what she was talking about was not connected to her position as a lawyer," she said.

"I've definitely seen people identify her as a lawyer and talk to her as if they respected her position, so I don't feel at all that she's ever said, 'I'm not speaking as a lawyer'.

Jacinta said Grey took every opportunity to push conspiracy theories in her capacity as a lawyer, which gave these statements a false sense of gravitas within some circles.

"I care about some vulnerable people and I thought the misinformation was putting them at risk by encouraging people not to consider masks, not to consider social distancing, not to consider vaccinations," Jacinta said.

"I'm worried about the damage she does to people by spreading deeply concerning conspiracy theories."

Law professor at the University of Auckland, Mark Henaghan, told Checkpoint he believed proving Grey had acted unethically was not straightforward.

Henaghan said there was a difference between misconduct and misinformation.

He said a misconduct complaint would require the person to be aware that what they were saying was untrue.

A portrait of Otago University law professor Mark Henaghan.

Law professor at the University of Auckland Mark Henaghan Photo: Otago University.

"Misconduct is defined as.. conduct that reasonable lawyers would think is either disgraceful or dishonourable, or it's a wilful and reckless contravention of the rules," he said.

"And of course, according to the rules, lawyers should always avoid anything that's inaccurate or wrong, but it has to be wilful or reckless.

"That requires some sort of state of mind that you're wilfully knowing it's misinformation and I think, to be fair to Sue Grey - and I think we're gonna look at both sides of this issue - she, I think, probably strongly believes that the information she's providing and the things she's saying are right, and that a lot of other people have got it awfully wrong. So that's not so much wilful or reckless.

"Some may say, 'well, it's reckless', but she, she may well argue that 'I've done my research, and I've got some others who support my view'."

He said, according to the rules the Law Society can't suspend Grey and she is allowed to practise law until matters go before a disciplinary tribunal and the process was slow.

"In 2015, it took 143 days to complete the complaints process," he said.

"Last count in 2021, the average was 259 days. So it does take time to work its way through the system. It has to go through a standing committee and then it has to go to the tribunal, and at that point they can put an interim suspension on the person.

"But obviously, it hasn't reached that point with regard to the Law Society complaints."

Henaghan said the current rules were under review.

Sue Grey has declined to comment to RNZ.

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