Crown solicitor's behaviour leaves staff 'genuinely distressed'

Management style found to be 'challenging, critical, and unpredictable' – but Crown solicitor cleared of bullying allegations

Crown solicitor's behaviour leaves staff 'genuinely distressed'

A Crown solicitor at Hamilton Legal has been cleared of the bullying allegations made against her, but the review of her conduct revealed that she still "fell below the standards" expected of a warrant holder.

The review of Hamilton Crown Solicitor Jacinda Hamilton's behaviour was carried out following an anonymous complaint about her conduct from current and former staff.

Maria Dew KC was appointed to launch an independent investigation to review the facts surrounding the alleged bullying conduct carried out by the Crown solicitor.

Bullying case

Dew, after interviewing 38 individuals, was "not satisfied" that Hamilton engaged in conduct that amounted to bullying under the definition of WorkSafe NZ.

She believed, however, that there was a valid basis for the concerns raised against the Crown solicitor.

According to Dew's findings, the communication and management style of the Crown solicitor was "challenging, critical, and unpredictable."

"This was found to be a central cause of poor workplace culture for many staff," a statement from the Solicitor-General's office read, which cited Dew's findings.

The statement added the Crown solicitor wasn't aware of the impact of her behaviour until the investigation was launched.

Solicitor-General Una Jagose KC accepted Dew's findings to be "serious."

Jagose also "accepts that some staff have been genuinely distressed as well as staff trust in the Crown Solicitor having been undermined."

Below expected standards of conduct

The Solicitor-General, as part of her own review of Hamilton's performance, found that the Crown solicitor's behaviour "at times fell below the standards expected of a warrant holder."

The review was focused on Hamilton's management and communication style in light of Dew's findings.

According to the Solicitor-General, Dew has also accepted responsibility and deeply regrets that some of her actions had a "hurtful impact" in the workplace.

"From our detailed review, it was clear the Crown Solicitor and her partners are making changes and have work well underway to better support staff," Jagose said in the statement.

She also expressed confidence that the Crown solicitor is now taking steps to address her communication style and improve the firm's workplace culture.

"I have confidence in the Crown Solicitor's commitment and ability to professionally lead the office in a way that is consistent with the Terms of Office and with my expectations."

The deputy solicitor-general is expected to support the Crown Solicitor and Hamilton Legal, with follow-up steps agreed upon to ensure that changes are sustained in the organisation's workplace.

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