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Name suppression – Bouquet from the Eb Leary case

  • May 20th, 2010

Bouquet to new High Court Judge Rebecca Ellis. The Court of Appeal has rejected Eb (Mr Asia) Leary's appeal against her first high profile decision, that the Learys should not have name suppression in a case where there was (inadmissable) evidence suggesting Leary was up to his old tricks.

Now lets also see the list of 81 dupes who gave Leary the character references which in 2007 persuaded the High Court to overturn the 5 person Law Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal refusal to re-admit Leary to the law profession. They are said to have included a retired High Court Judge, 6 District Court judges, and 15 QCs.

There should be a simple rule. If you are defrocked from the law for being bent, go and find other things to do with your qualification and talents after you've served your time or paid your fine. It should be automatic, not as a punishment, but as a clear message about the standards of probity required for the profession that relies above all on honesty. Over 50% of law graduates live fulfilling lives without ever being in the profession.  

Publicity of unwisdom should also be routine. Listing the referees would be helpful to the rest of us. Many of them will have been prompted by their need for conspicuous compassion, and we'll forgive them for being victims of Leary's plausibility, but there should still be the  sanction of exposure for stupid personal endorsements. Without a downside to being wrong, what discourages the careless lending of one's own reputation to others.

The law profession is infested with people who mistake (as wisdom) compassion that is costless to them, Soich's reinstatement in 1991  was similarily fashonable. I have no reason to think that she is anything but the competent and effective professional advertised on her website. One does excuse youthful mistakes. But her skills could just as easily employed in one of the millions of useful and remunerative jobs outside a profession in which unquestioned honesty is crucial. 

Her readmission is a constant reminder of our low standards, the inability of lawyers to apply in their own affairs the fundamental element of effective law, certainty, consistency, predictability, and assessment by reference to practical decision effects, not  professions of noble intention.

Over the next few months a new cohort of young lawyers will hear fine sentiments about their responsibilities from the judges who admit them to the bar. I hope the Leary case reminds judges to be equally sure of their purpose when the next Leary fronts up seeking to overturn a refusal to readmit them.


  • dragonfly
  • May 20th, 2010
  • 8:11 pm

My sister was a detective years ago. She was sickened once in a trial to see an MP give a paedophile a character reference. What was costless for that MP was not costless for the victim or for future potential victims. I agree that we should be allowed to know who gave Eb Leary character references, and we would then know that these are people of questionable judgement and little wisdom.

  • tim barclay
  • May 21st, 2010
  • 9:11 am

I agree with your sentiments on the Leary case on name suppression.  Name suppression does not stop rumors and I think it is important that high profile people have their names released so that people who are innocently the target of rumors can have THEIR name cleared as well.  I think you are a bit harsh on readmission to the profession.  I would qualify your remarks that people should be readmitted providing their transgression does not expose a deep and permanent character flaw especially on the question of honesty and a propensity for serious criminal conduct.

  • Tim Spooner
  • May 21st, 2010
  • 12:30 pm

Marcus Arthur MacDonald. Former Senior Commercial Partner of Phillips Fox. I warned Phillips Fox  10 years ago of how this disgrace to the legal profession was in bed with another fraudster, Neill Allan Williams, a crooked accountant. Not only did they ignore my information, he continued with the firm until last year, when he and Williams had managed to defraud over $60 million from investors as Directors of Five Star Finance. Now dragging its way through the Courts. MacDonald continues to practice at Greenhithe even though he has been banned as a Manager or Director .He was only removed from Phillips Fox website the day he was charged by the Police. Beware!

  • rocky
  • May 21st, 2010
  • 3:52 pm

When I read of the anonymous character references which enabled Eb Leary to resume his activities I did take leave to ponder whether or not some of the Judges or QCs  might have owed him money, or been in horse racing partnerships with him…. He seems to have got off the latest charge due to the rather compelling evidence being hearsay and I can follow the reasoning for that, though the hearsay rules and their application seem to be a matter of  inconsistent and illogical judicial choice these days.

  • kim arnold
  • May 22nd, 2010
  • 11:29 am

lawyers , judges look after them selves. Police look after themselves, just look at wellington district commander in court….how mnay people know….all blacks get let off all the time…….
the only ones who have to fear the justice system is people like me, joe public
well written Mr Franks, but enough is enough

  • Colin Wilson
  • May 24th, 2010
  • 5:19 pm
  • Cactus Kate
  • May 26th, 2010
  • 4:54 am

Leary seems to have unusual cash handling practices so I can’t argue for him Stephen, but Soich? Come on! She was barely out of nappies when her association with Clark came up and all she did was what millions of men do daily – exercise extremely poor judgment in who they get naked with. They’d be precious few lawyers practising in NZ if sexual morals and intimate relationship management came into consideration as “fit and proper”.

I imagine over the years she’s been watched very closely by all sorts of persons in the legal profession and hasn’t another black mark to her name. Remembering of course nothing stuck the first time.

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