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Judge Sharon Elizabeth Couper McAuslan QSO, 1945 - 2019

By Geoff Adlam

District Court Judge Sharon McAuslan died in Edinburgh, Scotland on 24 May 2019. Although she had retired in 2015, Judge McAuslan had been reappointed as an Acting District Court Judge from the beginning of 2019. She spent much of her judicial career presiding at one of New Zealand's busiest courts.

Judge McAuslan was admitted as a barrister and solicitor on 16 December 1986. As well as an LLB, she held an MA(Hons) and a Dip Ed. She practised criminal law and by the 1990s was working as a senior Crown Prosecutor at Meredith Connell.

While in practice she was also involved in other aspects of the legal profession. In 1991 and 1992 she was law and practice examiner, assessor of student dissertations, and moot court Judge at the University of Auckland.

An active presenter at New Zealand Law Society seminars, she was also a team leader for several annual NZLS CLE Ltd Litigation Skills Programmes. Judge McAuslan was a member of the Auckland Medico Legal Society and the Auckland Women Lawyers’ Association.

She was appointed a District Court Judge in 1995. Sworn in in April 1995, Judge McAuslan began to sit in Auckland on 8 May 1995. She transferred to the North Shore District Court and then to the Manukau District Court in 2000 where she remained for the rest of her judicial career. While on the bench she served as the criminal liaison judge for Pukekohe and Papakura District Courts. She was a member of the District Court Jury Judges Committee.

The Manukau District Court is the busiest court in the country, with over 11% of all new criminal non-jury cases in District Courts in 2018. For over 15 years Judge McAuslan was one of a team of judges who managed a heavy workload. A typical day in her court was the subject of a Radio NZ documentary in 2016, with reporter Edward Gay watching Judge McAuslan overseeing "a steady stream of cases including aggravated robbery, fraud, grievous bodily harm and a biting episode". The morning session ended with Judge McAuslan and lawyers picking up their papers and leaving the courtroom for lunch - "just another day in the Manukau District Court".

On her retirement in 2015, she was appointed an Acting District Court Judge for two years from 30 January 2016. She had been reappointed for a further two-year term on 14 January 2019.

In the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours she was appointed a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order for services to the judiciary.

She married orthopaedic surgeon Alexander McAuslan in 1977 and they had one son, Duncan.

Last updated on the 12th June 2019