From the President - June 2024

Kia ora koutou, Mānawatia a Matariki.

This weekend, on 28 June, we celebrate our new national holiday and the beginning of the Māori New Year.

This is a time to celebrate a meal with friends and whānau, remember those who have passed and celebrate new beginnings, looking up to look forward. 

I am looking forward to celebrating Matariki for the first time in my new hometown in Arrowtown, where the streets are lined with lights and a festival takes place, Matariki Arrowtown Ka-Muriwai, with a theme of “Bringing whanau together” through kapa haka performance and kai. It is a new beginning that I am looking forward to celebrating.

Remembering those who have gone

The Bar Association would like to remember former barristers who have passed away since our last Matariki:

  • Rt Hon Sir Michael Hardie Boys GNZM GCNG QSO KStJ PC, December 2023
  • Len Anderson KC, Dunedin, September 2023
  • David McGee CNZM KC, August 2023
  • Noel King, April 2024

Our thoughts are with their families and colleagues who worked alongside them.

Looking forward

The Attorney-General has announced the appointment of 19 King's Counsel. As Senior Counsel, they will face new challenges and opportunities in their careers. This is not the journey's end but a new beginning, which appropriately coincides with Matariki.

On behalf of the Bar Association Council, I sincerely congratulate them and wish them all the best for the future. 

Celebrating what we do

It can be difficult to step back and reflect on what sustains us as lawyers when the work seems never-ending, and progress on issues we are passionate about seems glacial.  However, this weekend is a chance to look up and remember our good fortune.

Emma Priest, a barrister at Augusta Chambers in Auckland, wrote a beautiful piece online this week.  It captured this celebration of what we do.  While I am not a criminal lawyer, I do get the same sense of pride and satisfaction when I work with an individual or organisation and change happens for them.

Emma’s words celebrate what many barristers do, so I invite you to read them:

"I’ve been thinking a lot about why it is that I love criminal law. I think that when people commit crimes, they show us the extreme end of what are very understandable human emotions. There is a common humanity in feelings of shame, rejection, the desire to be loved and accepted, and feelings of failure and pain. We see this played out in the criminal courts acutely, but ultimately the motives or reasons behind offending are ones which we can all relate to.

I did an undergraduate psychology degree and I often find myself reflecting on why a person is offending and the remarkable work that they do as part of rehabilitation either in prison or out.

I spent some time by AVL with a new client this week. He was born into a life of violence and deprivation. His family have all experienced intergenerational trauma. This client, having only known love expressed as violence, was ultimately placed in state care where he was further abused, sexually and physically. This cemented his core belief that people express care and love by hurting them. He said to me "hurt people hurt people". Wow.

We know that offenders, certainly serious offenders, are almost inevitably victims first. When I heard this tattooed, tough Prisoner telling me about how he is having to relearn his core beliefs, and that he’s working on telling the younger version of himself that he’s safe and that he doesn’t have to use violence to protect himself, it was both confronting and compelling.

The bravery, strength and grit that these people have to continue to live, when all they have known is suffering, is remarkable. It is a great privilege to be told their stories and to be trusted with them. Often as lawyers, we are one of the first trusted people in their lives. We turn up. We are reliable. We do what we say we will do. We advocate for our clients and we role model how conflict can be resolved in a constructive way.

This is what makes criminal law so meaningful to me. The ability and the privilege to sit with people who are prepared to turn towards those overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame. The fact that we get to walk alongside them, watch them change, and articulate this to the court as a conduit is why I do what I do."

Our Bar Association mahi

I also want to share with you just a few items of mahi the Bar Association has been involved in over the last month.

The Criminal Masterclass on Oral Submissions  

This class was run in Auckland in person and with an ethos of encouraging practical advocacy participation.  We limited the class sizes (in this case, to 36 participants) to ensure a high ratio of coaches, judges and individual attention.  We were delighted with the feedback. 

This is the first time I have attended a truly useful workshop of this nature. So, thank you and long may this kind of practical CLE offering continue. [Law Firm Partner]

An amazing day - can’t wait to put what I learnt into action. Thank you to NZBA and to all the judges, KCs, and especially the brave appellants and respondents. [Senior Associate]

Superb training from a high calibre panel! Well done New Zealand Bar Association | Ngā Ahorangi Motuhake o te Ture (NZBA) [Barrister]

I want to congratulate the course directors, Chris Gudsell KC and Rachael Reed KC and our Secretariat for bringing this class to life.  Thank you also to our faculty who shared their knowledge, including the Hon. Paul Davison KC, Hon. Pamela Andrews CNZM, David Jones KC, Marie Dyhrberg KC, James Rapley KC, Julie-Anne Kincade KC, and Tiffany Cooper KC.  This will now be a regular event on our calendar.

Kings Counsel application process

I have already discussed the appointments of 19 new Silks. But I would like to mention the considerable work involved in the appointment process.

Over May and June 2024, the Bar Association's King's Counsel Advisory Panel reviewed applications for appointment as a Silk. As a result, recommendations were made to the Solicitor-General and Attorney-General, along with those made separately by the New Zealand Law Society and the judiciary. I have been hugely impressed and grateful for the dedication and integrity of our Advisory Panel.

Tikanga in Legal Education

The Bar Association submitted a letter to the Regulations Review Committee earlier this month supporting the Council of Legal Education's recommendation on the introduction of the Professional Examination in Law (Tikanga Māori Requirements) Amendment Regulations. As the law stands currently and is developing, our Council agrees that Tikanga Māori is a necessary part of legal education. This seems fitting to acknowledge at this time of year, with Matariki upon us.  

Ngā mihi nui

Maria Dew KC, President.

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