A private detective who watched former criminal lawyer Robyn Fendall resulted in her repaying $450,000 in income protection insurance payments she had received. She has now been struck off the roll by the Law Society in a statement issued today.
Ms Fendall had previously hit headlines with the $1 million paid to her in legal aid payments over the three years prior to 2009, which resulted in her being suspended by the Legal Services Agency for over-billing as a supervising duty lawyer at the Waitakere District Court in West Auckland.
The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has struck Robyn Philippa Joy Fendall off the roll of barristers and solicitors.
Ms Fendall was found to have been guilty of professional misconduct by reason of disgraceful or dishonourable conduct.
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Her misconduct related to false declarations made in relation to an income protection insurance policy she held. Ms Fendall had made claims under the policy for two separate periods. She was required to make monthly declarations about her work activities and/or whether she had received any income during the period of her claims.
In spite of declaring that she had not received any income or been involved in any unpaid or volunteer work during the first claim period, Ms Fendall had received 16 payments over three months.
She also filed false declarations for a number of months during the second claim period, omitting to disclose legal work carried out and court appearances she had made.
The insurer engaged a private investigator to carry out surveillance of Ms Fendall and terminated the income protection insurance. Under a settlement agreement, Ms Fendall repaid $450,016 to the insurer which had sought repayment of total benefits it had paid. The insurer also made a complaint to the New Zealand Law Society.
In 2011 Ms Fendall had pleaded guilty in the Tribunal to a charge of misconduct in her professional capacity relating to making excessive claims for legal aid payments to which she was not entitled. She was censured and ordered to pay costs.
The Tribunal said it found Ms Fendall’s conduct to be at the most serious end of the spectrum. It ordered that she be struck off with effect from 24 August 2018.
“It is essential that members of the New Zealand legal profession must be totally honest in everything they do. Anyone who engages a lawyer must be able to expect that they will be obtaining advice and services from a totally trustworthy individual,” New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck says.
“When a lawyer is found to have made false statements or declarations for any reason, the integrity and reputation of the whole profession is threatened.”