New Zealand Law Society and the Face of Iniquity - by Sharon Ritchie

The New Zealand Law Society pressed some charges of sexual harassment against James Gardner-Hopkins. He's the man whose name lawyers in Wellington all knew but did not speak. But now the name suppression has been lifted by the Disciplinary Tribunal.

But, read with an earlier Stuff report, it is clear from this that the most serious charges were not brought. So it appears to be a coverup again.

The very serious offences were heavily covered up to begin with. It has been said that Russell McVeagh obtained up to six injunctions to protect Gardner-Hopkins. If so, those must have been "Cull orders". Those are injunctions to cover up "iniquity" on the basis it is "confidential". The only statutory permission for suppression is in family proceedings or where there are criminal charges. We do not believe Gardner-Hopkins was prosecuted by the police. We believe the purpose of any Cull orders, as well as any NDA, would have included the prevention of a prosecution.

Much like the protection of Harvey Weinstein by his lawyers, and the lawyers for his victims, telling them they could not get justice, only money. Except in New Zealand people don't even get money, and then they are blacklisted anyway.

The press talked about the Law Society allowing Gardner-Hopkins to continue practising despite the accusations against him - but they didn't name him. They appeared to be gagged, but didn't say so. That's consistent principally with a superinjunction.

A superinjunction is an injunction that you mustn't say there is an injunction. It's a gag about a gag.

We know that at least one superinjunction was granted to deal with a mess-up by the Law Society. Malcolm Ellis, who operates out of Christchurch and is supposed to ensure complaints are properly investigated, sent details of Gardner-Hopkins to a young law blogger by mistake.

The blogger had deleted the emails, so - when there was no risk of the Law Society's mistake being exposed, but also no risk of Gardner-Hopkins being exposed by the Law Society taking proceedings - it did what the coverup lawyers always do. It asked for a new, heavier coverup. That coverup was to hide not just what Gardner-Hopkins was accused of doing, but to hide how the Law Society was helping him and Russell McVeagh with that.

Kathryn Beck, the President of. the Law Society and an employment lawyer, got an injunction against the young man, from Peter Churchman, a High Court judge, and another employment lawyer. And a "super injunction" to say that he could not talk about the injunction. We don't know whether they asked for a costs order as well. That would be normal too, when the court is being used to provide layers of coverup, though it wasn't mentioned in the reports we've read about this case.

We've seen it again recently, in the Newsroom case where Oranga Tamariki are running a coveup using methods designed to bring down Newsroom as well, even involving the police. The free press and rights of free speech are the problem for wrongdoers.

There was professional and media concern that the Law Society was covering up its failure to deal with Gardner-Hopkins, but Kathryn Beck said it wasn't. She said:

The Law Society ... took the entirely appropriate step of seeking a Court order to prevent any publication of the email in order to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the information and people affected.

They later admitted that there had been no need for a superinjunction to suppress the information. It was also clear that Russell McVeagh had used coverup tactics before, rather than exert any discipline over their men.

Russell McVeagh reached a confidential settlement with some complainants after allegations emerged of inappropriate behaviour at the firm.

One of the women agreed that the terms of the settlement didn’t stop her complaining to the Law Society. It wasn’t until she had studied ethics at university that she realised the Law Society should surely do something about it.

Where the victim of a sex attack wants to talk about it, it's not a matter of "privacy" - unless you think men have the right to privacy for their sex attacks. So when Kathyn Beck talks about "privacy and confidentiality", it appears she just means "confidentiality" in the form seen in a Cull order - suppression of evidence of wrongdoing or "iniquity". So this departure from the principle that the courts dispense justice means that a court will help someone to cover up their own wrongdoing and offences. Apparently it is then considered acceptable for the law to have a way to ensure men get to commit their sex attacks confidentially.

The new "Cull order" applied from 1991 onwards, and was originally designed to protect a certain Wellington university lecturer, again from being held accountable for sexual offences. Wellington Newspapers rolled over.

But if you can hide one kind of wrongdoing, you can hide another. The new legal idea would work for tax evasion or fraud, the same as for sex offences. The legal principles to hiding wrongdoing are the same. Then Radio New Zealand rolled over as well. Almost immediately, a "Cull order" was made gagging them from reporting aspects of the Winebox inquiry.

Was it amusing or frightening that the Privacy Commissioner went along with the Cull order in the Gardner-Hopkins case? Does he think men should be able to do a bit of rapey stuff privately and confidentially? Specially if their firm has bought them a Holy Record of Settlement? Perhaps the Privacy Commissioner's views on Cull orders are also "confidential".

We note that Ron Brierley, who was the main runner of the misdeeds being investigated in the Winebox inquiry, is now in custody for sex offences - child pornography. It's all very Harvey Weinstein, but Weinstein's lawyer is not a Kiwi. He is London lawyer Mark Mansell, and he is being prosecuted by the Law Society's regulatory offices in England.

Ironically the Law Society's refusal to address the Russell McVeagh sex attacks was criticised by none other than Stephanie Dyhberg.

She had previously helped her mentor, Helen Cull, and others to destroy one of her own clients to save Helen Cull's influential friends from what should have been a police matter - until Helen Cull arranged a coverup. Stephanie Dyhrberg said:

"Everybody knows about the Russell McVeagh issue, knows about the alleged conduct and the Law Society can't even say 'yes, we are looking at it'," she said.

That seems a bit much from someone who has been central in organising an illegal coverup herself. It doesn't yet seem to have helped Dyhrberg get the judicial post she appeared to be seeking, even though the famous MBIE employee "Fun Bum", who made orders against a woman who exposed an employer for sexual offences (Anna Fitzgibbon and the famous "fun bum slap" case) was made a judge.

We don't know who performed the Law Society's secret applications, obviously. But it wasn't Ms Cull herself, as she is now Justice Cull.

The original instigator of the coverup "Cull order", can still be proud of herself if she wanted to "make a difference". The High Court has come out publicly in favour of coverup orders to protect wrongdoing, and those orders have already had a huge influence on the fate of the New Zealand legal profession.

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