Eion Castles
Eion Castles Dean Purcell

Lawyer struck off for massive overcharging

A LAWYER who grossly overcharged his former golfing buddy has been struck off the Law Society's register, and ordered to repay almost $500,000 in overcharged fees.

Eion Castles was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal last December.

He faced the disciplinary tribunal after he charged a client, with whom he played golf at Titirangi Golf Club, $1,030,000 - well above the $436,000 cost assessors estimated his work would have cost to help sort out legal problems created by the client's leaky Remuera home.

Mr Castles was not at today's penalty hearing.

The former client, whose name is suppressed by the tribunal, today told the hearing that as Mr Castles had declared himself bankrupt last Friday, he was unlikely to see any of the monies awarded.

While the former client continued " to live in penury" , Mr Castles would not endure any hardship. " ... Castles will still live in an upmarket suburb in a comfortable house owned by his wife. He will still enjoy rent from another house owned by his wife. He will still holiday on the beach at Waiheke in a house owned by his wife" , the man told the hearing

Mr Castles would also still play golf at the Titirangi Golf Club he was still a member of, the former client said.

"In another court it is likely that he would be found guilty of theft or some other crime deserving of a custodial sentence."

The tribunal's five-member panel ordered Mr Castles be struck off the Law Society's register and ordered him to pay $482,000 in overcharged fees and $107,000 in costs to the Law Society.

He was also ordered to pay a $5000 fee to the Law Society and $5000 in compensation to his former clients.

Tribunal chairman Judge Dale Clarkson said striking off a lawyer required a unanimous decision by all five tribunal members.

Mr Castles' absence from the penalty hearing was "unfortunate" she said.

Speaking to the former clients, Judge Clarkson said the tribunal understood they had suffered an "extremely difficult and negligence experience of the legal system".

"That is extraordinarily bad for the industry's reputation as a whole."

In a written decision released last December, the tribunal described Mr Castles' charges were "grossly excessive".

The tribunal found that in his first two weeks of work, Mr Castles charged his former golfing buddy more than he had been charged by his former solicitors, who were also working on legal action arising from his leaky home, over a period of two years.

Mr Castles was found guilty last December of five charges relating to gross overcharging, general conduct and serious failures in professional standards. Three other charges were dismissed.

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