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Bar Association bans lawyer from practising for the next two months

Attorney Llewellyn Peniston has been banned from practising anything other than criminal law for the next two years, The Royal Gazette understands.The restriction was imposed by Bermuda Bar Association the governing body for the Island’s legal profession after an investigation into complaints about Mr Peniston’s financial activities. A notice outlining the exact terms of the ban is expected to be published today in the Official Gazette.Sources told this newspaper that Mr Peniston was ordered not to practise any law at all for two months, after which he can only represent those involved in criminal cases. Mr Peniston was due to appear as defence counsel at a Magistrates’ Court trial on Wednesday but the court heard he would not be able to appear before January 22 and the case was adjourned.It is believed that the attorney appealed his ban in the Court of Appeal last month but failed to get it overturned.An appeal against a Bar Council ruling appeared on the court listing for November 8 but the name of the attorney involved was withheld.Such hearings take place behind closed doors under the Bermuda Bar Act 1974, unless the lawyer making the appeal requests otherwise.One source said: “I’m aware that there have been a number of complaints about his professional conduct.“I know at least seven and possibly as many as 13 [complaints] that were heard together, the majority of which were financial.“Based on the nature of the complaints, he has probably been banned from certain types of work involving client trust funds. Llew appealed the punishment against him and the appeal was dismissed.”Another source said: “I know allegations have been levied against him. I’m made to understand that he can’t do anything for two months and after that it’s only criminal law for two years.”Former UBP senator Mr Peniston got in trouble with the Bar Association in January 2007, when its disciplinary panel gave him a one-year suspension from all work involving real estate law after he “acted in a verbally abusive and intimidating manner” and “failed to abide by the terms of his professional undertaking”.In December 2008, he was suspended for a month after admitting failing to produce his accounts for the Association.In August of that year, a Supreme Court judge told Peniston he could end up behind bars if he didn’t pay two former clients almost $10,500 owing to them.He paid off the debt to Terry Philpott and Desmond Richardson, who brought a civil action against him, a day after the judge’s warning.Paul Harshaw, the lawyer representing the two men, said he did not make a complaint to the Bar about the matter which involved client trust money but was reminded by the Association of his duty to file a report to its professional conduct committee.“I did make a report,” he said. “It’s my understanding that an investigation took place though I do not know the outcome.”Mr Peniston has not returned calls or e-mails from The Royal Gazette this week. Bar Council president Kiernan Bell said she could not comment.