University of Otago chaplain the Rev Greg Hughson says a prayer beside a kowhai tree planted in honour of the late Otago graduate Greg King, while lawyer Judith Ablett-Kerr QC (behind tree at right), Otago Law Faculty dean Prof Mark Henaghan and others look on. Photo by Linda Robertson.
The death of the leading criminal defence lawyer Greg King
was a wake-up call over the pressures facing some defence
lawyers, Prof Mark Henaghan said yesterday.
Prof Henaghan, who is dean of the University of Otago Law
Faculty, was commenting yesterday at an outdoor memorial
service on campus, attended by about 50 people, including
several senior Dunedin lawyers.
At the early evening service honouring the memory of Mr King,
an Otago law graduate, a kowhai tree was planted near the
Water of Leith to mark the occasion.
The Society of University of Otago Law Students said it had
organised the event to honour one of the most esteemed
graduates of both the faculty and the university.
The coroner found in October that Mr King's death in
Wellington in November 2012 had been self-inflicted. And a
note left by him described being ''totally burnt out'' after
taking on so many criminal defence cases.
Prof Henaghan praised Mr King's achievements as a lawyer who
was ''always highly prepared'' and ''entirely committed'' to
Mr King had not only taken on a high-pressure job with a high
workload, but had also been adversely affected by an unfairly
negative response from some sections of society over his work
as a criminal lawyer, Prof Henaghan said.
Some people completely misunderstood the role of defence
lawyers, wrongly lumping them together with defendants, and
harshly condemning lawyers for the crimes their clients were
accused of, he said.
Some such critics considered defence lawyers ''scum'', but
failed to realise that Crown prosecutions could not proceed
to trial without defence lawyers being present.
Such people also failed to appreciate that everyone,
including themselves, had the right to an adequate defence,
Prof Henaghan said.
Mr King had also sought to uphold the rights of the victims
of crime, he said.
After being admitted to the bar in Dunedin in 1993, Mr King
had worked in the city with Judith Ablett-Kerr QC, a
prominent lawyer and his mentor, for three years before
shifting to Wellington.
They had worked together on the ''poisoned professor''
trials, which resulted in the defendant, Dr Vicky Calder,
being found not guilty. He also assisted Ms Ablett-Kerr in
2009 in the trial of Clayton Weatherston for the murder of
Last year, he successfully represented Fielding farmer Ewen
Macdonald, who had been charged with the murder of his
brother-in-law, Scott Guy.
Ms Ablett-Kerr praised Mr King's ''stellar career'' as a
criminal defence advocate ''second to none''.
Mr King was proud of being an Otago graduate and once, while
talking with a former Chief Justice of New Zealand, had
commented that attending Victoria University of Wellington
did not seem to have held the judge back, she said.