Court of Appeal sits in Dunedin after long absence

Judith Ablett-Kerr.
Judith Ablett-Kerr.
For the first time in nearly 15 years, the Court of Appeal is sitting in Dunedin - and it will not be the last.

The ceremonial sitting took place yesterday morning before the court hears 16 matters at the Stuart St courthouse this week.

The make-up of the three-judge bench was particularly significant.

Justice Stephen Kos - Court of Appeal president - hails from Mosgiel, while Justices Christine French and Forrie Miller are University of Otago graduates.

Judith Ablett-Kerr QC, who spoke on behalf of the region's silks, also noted they were the three most senior judges from the jurisdiction.

She spoke of the history behind the Court of Appeal, which originally sat in Dunedin and Christchurch before it moved to its permanent home in Wellington when the city became New Zealand's capital.

''Sometimes a return to the past can actually be progressive,'' Ms Ablett-Kerr said.

She also had some good news for the future.

''A little bird has told me the Court of Appeal is likely to sit in Dunedin a week in each year and that can be nothing other than positive.''

Justice Kos confirmed the court would sit here again next year to mark the university's 150th anniversary.

Law students will get a special insight this week when the judges discuss some of the cases with them before the matters are called.

Ms Ablett-Kerr said it was a rare chance for everyone, not only the legal community, to see how the second-highest court in the land operated.

''Sitting in the south here provides an opportunity for the public to see first hand how the justice in our appellate courts is delivered. This can only enhance the confidence the public has in the justice system. So often we have to see something before we believe in it,'' she said.

Ms Ablett-Kerr said yesterday's events also marked a unique occasion in her career.

After representing a double murder accused in the High Court at 9am, making her speech before the Court of Appeal, and then defending a company and its director against the Commerce Commission in the District Court, she would have appeared in three jurisdictions by morning tea.

''Not bad going really,'' she said.

The Court of Appeal's stint in Dunedin will be capped off on Friday with the bar dinner at the Dunedin Club.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

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