Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Legal aid

Crown Law is taking legal advice; the Herald reports:

The Government's lawyers have contracted out handling of the Kim Dotcom case as the internet mogul heads back to court.
After a string of blunders, the Crown Law Office has drafted in one of the country's most expert lawyers to handle the extradition hearing.
Meredith Connell partner and senior counsel Christine Gordon will take over from the Crown Law Office lawyers, who have faced a string of bruising legal encounters since Dotcom and three co-accused were arrested in January at the request of the FBI.
The Crown's most recent loss was the High Court declaration that the search and seizure of property during the January 20 arrest was illegal. It followed earlier admissions that the wrong type of restraining order had been used to freeze Dotcom's assets.
The out-sourcing will pit Ms Gordon and fellow partner Aaron Perkins against Dotcom's lawyers, Paul Davison, QC, and Simpson Grierson senior partner Willie Akel. The switch in lawyers comes as Dotcom and his co-accused head back to court for a two-day judicial review which followed a far-reaching decision by extradition judge David Harvey.

On one hand, it's not good to have the nation's supposed best legal minds having to outsource. But on the other hand and on balance, it's probably a good thing that Crown Law has sought legal aid, rather than risk further litigation embarrassments.

And whilst on the subject of Crown Law, and to save a seperate post, Rod Emmerson expresses his opinion:

What do our legal experts like Quintin Hogg and FE Smith think?


F E Smith said...


Crown Law is the government's legal office and is based in Wellington. The criminal section handles a lot of the appeals, as well as keeping an eye on the Crown Solicitors network.

They usually hire top female law graduates and like to think of themselves as the best of the best. Nobody seems to have told them that most of the best criminal lawyers didn't necessarily do that well at law school. There is something innate about true ability in Court; it is something that you can be good at through practice, but high marks and an honours degree is never an indicator of courtroom talent. Crown law doesn't understand that.

Anyway, the point of this comment is simply to note that Crown Law has called in a partner in the Auckland Crown Solicitor's office, so they have merely gone for a different prosecutor, rather than a top gun. Gossip has it that Christine Gordon was made an SC at the request of the British government because of her role in the Pitcairn Island trials. I am not sure that she would qualify, otherwise.

But it does say a lot when Crown Law stop using their own counsel and outsource part way through a case. This one has especially been one stuff up after the next.

Mind you, considering who one of their counsel has been, I am not surprised.

With regards the cartoon, I like it! Crown Law often coasts on the fact that the Courts are very pro-Crown and lets the police away with actions that other jurisdictions would punish. The fact that the SC's Urewera decision came as a surprise to them is case in point. The arrogance with which they have approached the Dotcom case is another.

Keeping Stock said...

Thanks FE Smith; if only all commenters could provide contributions such as that. Your insider knowledge is always appreciated.

Quintin Hogg said...

My 2 cents.

I don't know much about crown law so can't comment on what they do or otherwise.

That said my view is Crown law cocked up the application for the warrants of arrest.

Reading the court judgment there seemed also to been a rather lax approach to the custody of the cloned hard drives (on both sides I might add) but it did seem that crown counsel may have been obtuse in what she said to counsel for Mr Dotcom about the drives.

Given the case is Auckland based and because of the aforementioned cockup I think it is sensible and more cost effective that the person handling the case be Auckland based but Christine Gordon SC?

I would have thought that retaining senior counsel from the crown pannel would have been the better approach for two reasons.

MC in my view are close to Crown Law and, with the greatest respect to Ms Gordon, outside counsel would provide independent oversite of the case.

Mind you what would I know, I am just a flea lawyer in suburban Auckland.

F E Smith said...


I think you make a good point re the probity of briefing outside counsel in this case.

I would like to know whether Crown Law drafted the warrant application, or whether Meredith Connell were involved, but that is just out of curiosity.

I do think that you are a little too generous re the cloned hard drives. I think the judgment took the view that this was not a situation of laxity, but of a deliberate decision to breach the rules re retention of the data, and then to blame the rule breaking on a specious argument of consent by the defence.

I could be wrong, however.