Risk Assessors Beware – NZ Lawyer Struck Off!
This case study highlights the issue that access control must be consistently applied, no matter what position an individual has in the workplace. It involves a New Zealand lawyer, a prisoner serving a sentence for serious crimes, and a prison allowing for “professional” visits between lawyers and prisoners. Of course, Victoria did have something similar with a former female prison officer and a long term violent prisoner in 1993 that resulted in a prison breakout. Read on for details about the NZ incident.
A New Zealand disciplinary committee has struck off a lawyer who sneaked tobacco and an iPhone into a prison for her client, a convicted murderer and rapist, who she claimed was her lover. The five-person panel unanimously found that Ms Davina Murray was no longer a" fit and proper person to operate as a legal practitioner" based on her history of unprofessional conduct. Judge Clarkson said Ms Murray’s behaviour was "of such a serious level, no response short of strike off would be a proper one", The New Zealand Herald reported.
In 2013, Ms Murray was found guilty of smuggling an iPhone, cigarettes and a lighter into Mt Eden Prison for her client, Liam Reid. She originally alleged that prison guards framed Mr Reid, but later recanted her statement and acknowledged her guilt.
Mr Reid is serving a 23-year sentence for raping and killing a deaf woman and raping, robbing and attempting to murder a student. In previous hearings, Ms Murray revealed she was deeply in love with Mr Reid and believed he was innocent when she brought contraband items into the prison in October 2011.
Ms Murray’s actions have prompted prisons to re-think the easy access that lawyers have to their clients, according to Auckland Prison manager Tom Sherlock. Mr Sherlock told the court that Ms Murray's conduct had caused a significant erosion of the trust and confidence prison authorities had for lawyers. “I personally feel I can no longer simply rely on the integrity of the legal profession when making decisions in the best interests of the security of Auckland Prison, and ultimately the safety of the public," he said.
The case has caused a review of prison security including increased restrictions on visits between lawyers and prisoners.