Power list: New Zealand’s top criminal barristers

Some of New Zealand’s top lawyers become household names for the high-profile cases and clients they are forever linked to in the public’s mind.

While the country’s industry is small by global standards there are still the heavy hitters who excel in the courtroom before a jury and judge.

A good defence lawyer or prosecutor can turn a case in their favour before a trial even begins and certainly before it ends.

Most of the country’s legal fraternity is based in Auckland and Wellington, where many of the country’s highest-profile criminal cases take place in the High Court.

In the first of a two part series, Sam Hurley lists some of the most influential criminal prosecutors, defence lawyers and industry leaders.

Criminal barristers, prosecutors and litigators

Brian Dickey

Auckland’s Crown Solicitor has overseen some of the country’s biggest prosecutions since being appointed to the role in 2015.

Before then he tackled white-collar crime, particularly those born from the Global Financial Crisis, and commercial litigation. He has been a member of the Serious Fraud Office panel of prosecutors since 2010.

In 2019 he prosecuted Jesse Kempson, the man who murdered British backpacker Grace Millane.

He is currently overseeing the SFO’s prosecution of three former CBL executives.

Dickey is one of the few Māori Crown Solicitors and his firm Meredith Connell aims to have 20 per cent of its Crown prosecutors reach a conversational level of te reo Māori by 2023.

Natalie Walker

Manukau’s Crown Solicitor is responsible for all major prosecutions in one of the busiest, if not the busiest, legal areas in New Zealand which includes the Manukau District Court, the country’s biggest by case-load.

Considered one of the Crown’s best operators, Walker took on the role in the middle of the past decade when an expanding Auckland saw its prosecutions divided into two areas after the then-Crown Solicitor for the Super City, Simon Moore QC, was appointed as a High Court judge.

The firm Walker is a partner at, Kayes Fletcher Walker, grew from a small four-person office to a well-known medium-sized law firm.

Her prosecutors are often involved in Te Pae Oranga, an iwi-led, restorative justice approach.

Walker, who studied in Auckland and London, had previously worked as a prosecutor at Meredith Connell for 13 years.

She has been involved in some of New Zealand’s most tragic and high-profile cases, including the Red Fox Tavern cold case and the “House of Horrors” murder of Auckland teen Dimetrius Pairama.

Walker also handled the landmark prosecution of Kasmeer Lata, who was just the third person in New Zealand convicted for dealing in slaves, and it was the first case of its kind under a specific subsection of the Crimes Act.

Michael Heron QC

The former solicitor-general has become a sought-after counsel for high-profile clients and has been involved in several prominent public reviews.

He represented Joseph Parker after the boxing champion was named during a drug trafficking trial in 2019.

Heron has also been appointed to head an inquiry into the death of Olympian track cyclist Olivia Podmore by High Performance Sport and Cycling NZ.

He has also been involved in SFO prosecutions, including that of Former P3G trustee Stephen Henare who stole $1m from a Far North fund for underprivileged people.

Rachael Reed QC

Another barrister with a who’s-who client list.

She was recently in the news as the lawyer representing a judge’s son and his barrister partner who allegedly flouted Covid-19 lockdown rules by fleeing Auckland and travelling to a Wānaka holiday home.

She is currently defending former CBL chief executive Peter Harris against a prosecution by the SFO after the collapse of the $747m NZX-listed insurer.

Reed also represented the manager of a prominent businessman in a high-profile trial earlier this year.

Ron Mansfield QC

Known throughout New Zealand as Kim Dotcom’s lawyer, Mansfield has established himself as one of Auckland’s leading criminal barristers.

Recently silked, Mansfield has found himself attached to some of the country’s biggest criminal cases. He has represented those accused of transnational drug trafficking, gang presidents and government managers.

Mansfield recently acted for waste oil merchant Ron Salter in a landmark proceeds of crime case, and defended New Zealand’s former top military attache to the US, retired commodore Alfred Keating in the Washington DC embassy toilet spy scandal.

He also represented Stephen Borlase, the head of roading contracting business Projenz, in what became New Zealand’s largest bribery prosecution.

Mansfield is currently defending former National MP Jami-Lee Ross in a party donations case.

David Jones QC

Considered by several who the Herald spoke to as one of the best courtroom lawyers, Jones has been involved in some of the country’s biggest cases defending the wealthy and well-known.

He has for several years represented a prominent businessman on sex and attempting to pervert the course of justice charges.

Auckland restaurateur Leo Molloy was another recent high-profile client after the owner of Headquarters bar was the first, and only, person to be charged by police over breaching name suppression in the Grace Millane murder trial.

Jones is also leading a rare private prosecution as Vector accuses another company and two individuals of criminal behaviour during a “significant project”.

He was also the man behind the defence of a former Eroad manager acquitted of insider trading in 2018, the first such trial in New Zealand’s legal history.

Auckland businessman Simon Greenwood also had Jones in his corner during his trial and was found not guilty this year of careless driving causing the death of his former partner, Nicola (Nikki) Gapes, in a motorcycle accident.

Jones was also appointed as independent counsel to oversee the NZ Police Review into the Crewe homicides.

Marie Dyhrberg QC

Dyhrberg has been involved in some of the country’s biggest criminal trials and is currently defending Arthur Allan Thomas in an alleged historical sexual abuse case.

The Auckland District Law Society president has dedicated her life to the law and was the second woman in New Zealand to open a law practice.

Some of her highest-profile criminal cases include representing Michael Thrift Murray, who was found guilty of murdering patched Head Hunter Connor Morris, the partner of Millie Elder-Holmes.

She was also Teina Pora’s lawyer at his first two trials before he was exonerated by the Privy Council for the rape and murder of Auckland woman Susan Burdett after spending more than 20 years in prison for crimes he was innocent of.

Julie-Anne Kincade QC

Kincade worked as a criminal barrister and prosecuted cases in London for several years until 2005 after which she moved to New Zealand and worked at Meredith Connell.

She later joined the independent bar and has continued to be a regular figure in some of the biggest criminal cases in courtrooms around Auckland, including in the Mark Lundy case.

Davey Salmon QC

One of Auckland’s prominent litigators, Salmon acts in both civil and criminal cases, including representing one of the two defendants charged by the Serious Fraud Office in the NZ First Foundation donations case.

The recent silk has also acted for Team NZ and is involved in a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit against the ANZ and ASB banks over claims they failed to fully refund around 150,000 customers for fees and interest earned on loans in which there were disclosure breaches.

Paul Wicks QC

Wicks is one of Auckland’s most respected and well-liked barristers.

He recently represented an accountant charged with money laundering on behalf of the Comancheros, which he was cleared of.

Wicks is currently acting as a prosecutor for the SFO in the National and Labour Party donations cases.

John Billington QC

Billington, who was made a Queen’s Counsel in 1996, has acted in several cases of significant national interest.

During the past few years, he has regularly acted in health and safety prosecutions for Ports of Auckland and is currently representing the ports and its former CEO Anthony Gibson.

Billington is also counsel for former shareholder and non-executive director of CBL Alistair Hutchison, who was charged by the SFO after the insurance company failed.

He acted for the Crown this year in the Peter Ellis Supreme Court appeal.

He has also acted as pro bono counsel for the SPCA.

Other leading criminal defence lawyers in Auckland include: Paul Borich QC, Todd Simmonds, Emma Priest, Sam Wimsett and Ian Brookie.

Meanwhile, the big names in government agencies include: Solicitor-General Una Jagose QC, head of enforcement at the FMA Karen Chang, SFO director Julie Read, and NZ Law Society president Tiana Epati.

• Tomorrow: New Zealand’s top corporate and civil lawyers

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