ALWU welcomes the news that the former Russell McVeagh partner accused of sexual misconduct towards summer clerks will have charges against him heard in May this year.
The former partner, who has name suppression, faces eight charges of misconduct or, alternatively, unsatisfactory conduct.
ALWU is disappointed, however, that it has taken so long to proceed to a hearing. The events out of which the charges arose took place over the summer of 2015-2016—more than five years ago.
In particular, ALWU understands that the Law Society was aware of the allegations from September 2016 and made no move to investigate the matter at the time. It did so only in 2018 when Newsroom broke the story and the allegations became public knowledge.
ALWU also considers it unacceptable that the former partner at the centre of the allegations has been permitted to continue practising. It is within the power of the Standards Committee that charges a practitioner to apply to the Disciplinary Tribunal for an order that the practitioner be suspended from practice pending the determination of those charges. It does not appear that such an application was made in this case.
ALWU’s position is that all of this reflects an unacceptably cavalier attitude towards allegations of sexual misconduct and the safety of lawyers in the legal profession.
The Disciplinary Tribunal now has the opportunity to change this attitude. ALWU hopes that the Tribunal’s eventual decision will set an appropriate standard for future cases and send a firm message that no form of sexual misconduct should be tolerated in the legal profession.
ALWU also hopes that the lawyer at the centre of these allegations is named, in the interests of transparency and safety for clients and the legal community.