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Courtroom drama strikes right chord for wheeling and dealing cyclist

14 September 2017

Running a little antique shop in Dunedin and scouring colonial furniture auctions resulted in a “slightly elongated university career” for Nelson crime barrister Tony Bamford.

But it equipped him for an alternative career – antique dealer.

“If I wasn’t a lawyer I would probably run a café or a bar and sell antiques at the same time. I like the chitchat and social atmosphere of a café or a bar and worked in a few as a student.”

Name Anthony John Dean (Tony) Bamford
Born Mosgiel
Age 56
Entry to law Graduated BA (History) and LLB from Otago University 1990. Admitted in 1990.
Workplace Bamford Law, Nelson.
Specialist area Criminal law

Taking seven years to finish his degrees at Otago University – “passing was an imposition” – Tony and a fellow student ran an antique business for a couple of years between studies and with a history degree he also did some teaching.

“We were mainly selling colonial furniture when there was quite a bit of kauri and rimu colonial furniture around and we used to go to the auctions in Dunedin and Timaru. I guess we were itinerant inter-generational wheelers and dealers.

Tony Bamford

“I was doing it part-time, but with the sharemarket crash in 1987 I thought I better get a real job.

“I enjoyed studying in Dunedin, it’s a good city to be a student but I’m not sure the culture that pervades the university now is quite as healthy as it was.”

Born in Mosgiel, where his father was a doctor based at Outram, Tony boarded at Waihi School in South Canterbury and Christ’s College.

“My parents decided, for whatever reason, that boarding school was a better option than the local schools and got me out of Dunedin.”

Resurrecting the family law tradition

The first recent lawyer in his family – “going back some years, three generations, there have been some lawyers and accountants” – Tony’s grandad was an Anglican vicar and his mother’s side were all north of Scotland farmers who farmed in Waimate and South Otago.

He was working for now Queen’s Counsel Royden Somerville in Dunedin doing town planning, resource management and relatively complex civil case but was more interested in a smaller provincial town where he could get a broader spectrum of work.

So, 25 years ago he moved to Nelson, where, with his legal executive wife Linda, his firm runs two separate operations – criminal and conveyancing, mainly on the residential side of the market.

“Nelson appealed and I have family connections here. My father went to Nelson College for two years while his father, who was a padre overseas, was stationed at the small local air force base as a padre during World War 2.”

He joined Rout Milner Fitchett and became a partner after two years, expanding his criminal law practice.

“I think they felt a little bit uncomfortable about having a profile in that area. In a small town where slightly conservative instincts unfortunately get in the way of acknowledging that professionals are just doing what they are supposed to do. So I decided to set up my own firm at the end of 2003.”

Man of action

A university rower whose brother was in the New Zealand Colts rowing ream and made the 1988 Olympic Games squad before it was cut over funding issues, Tony is a keen tramper and accomplished road cyclist.

“I used to do a lot of cycling, including competitive road cycling in my 40s and early 50s, but not so much now I have had two hip replacements. I enjoy mountain biking but don’t have the agility – being around 100kg – to flip myself round tight corners.

“I was riding B grade when Nelson’s George Bennett – who rides the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia – was starting out.

“In Nelson, particularly for mountain bikers, you go out your door and five minutes away there’s probably about 20 or 30 options for different rides. I’ve ridden up the Takaka Hill many times and a few years ago used to ride over to Collingwood when training.”

Tony’s son Edward (20), is in his first year studying film and media studies in Wellington and thinking about criminology.

“I don’t think Edward will move toward law. He has for some years had a bit of a passion about being a teacher. He’s into a church youth group, leading projects and very much into leadership.”

With a passion for the traditional choral music of Haydn and Bach, Tony – a baritone – has been in various choirs including Nelson’s Polyhymnos Chamber Choir, which lost its choral director but still reassembles for special events.

“I also like Stravinsky and remember as a teenager listening for the first time to his Rite of Spring – such a powerful piece.

“My mother was a very good organist and did a lot of performances. She played at Dunedin Cathedral and Roslyn Church, her regular place, and continued playing at smaller churches till she died.

“I play the piano and own one but lent it to someone because there is no room for it in our house. Maybe that’s a retirement project.”

Poetry and historical novels

“Many books have been started and haven’t been finished. I don’t get enough down time and tend to read at Christmas or when I’m not feeling well. I like historical novels - Dickens, and also Chaucer, of all things. I like the poetry of Milton and Keats, from my interest in English at university.

“We don’t watch a lot of TV, occasionally get a dvd and never seem to get to the movies much. I like film festivals and I have seen and enjoyed The Lincoln Lawyer. English legal dramas ones are more realistic than American ones, which make me so frustrated.”

“I didn’t have sufficient interest in science to be a doctor or enter the science field. I suppose when I started off I loved history and English and thought I needed to be more focused getting a professional career.

“Law is the closest because of the language and the written and spoken word is such an integral part of the legal profession.

“It took me a couple of years to become engaged and get a passion for it. It was in my last two years at university doing things like mooting when I realised I enjoyed the oral persuasion and advocacy of law.

Wood pigeons

“I drive a Skoda Superb station wagon and also have an old Nissan Navara ute which goes with our ¾ acre property with large garden at Stoke. One of my therapeutic outlets is doing a lot of gardening at weekends. Linda’s mother and father were both botanists and they had a very large collection of rhododendrons, many of which we inherited.

“We love our birds and have a lot of tui and wood pidgeons at home. We used to have a cat but got sick of it killing all the birds so we gave it away. My parents had Keeshonds - Dutch barge dogs – which need a lot of exercise. I like cats and dogs but don’t adopt the Gareth Morgan approach to cats.

“I enjoy the West Coast and have stayed at friends who had a bach on the beach at Ngakawau, near Granity, where the coal mine was. Golden Bay and the Catlins, in South Otago, where we used to have holidays when we were young – a beautiful part of the world. I’ve also spent time in the Maniototo around McRaes, Hyde and Middlemarch when my father was a doctor at Outram.

“David Lange would be my first choice of dinner guest. I always admired his intellect, sense of humour and humanity. I saw him when he did a road show with Gary McCormack. He was a rather tragic figure in a way, a bit like Norman Kirk. A repeat of that tragedy when a gifted and passionate man just got stymied by the system.

“And my music teacher Eli Gray-Smith, who is now in his 90s, from Dunedin - an amazing interested, interesting and energised person passionate about life. Oysters would be on the menu.”

Court drama

“I enjoy the challenge of criminal work. The immediate drama of a court, particularly with a jury trial, is much more real on a human level than what I tend to regard as pre-planned civil litigation scripted out in written submissions.

“The human dynamic is removed a lot from some of the civil and other jurisdictions. Family Court has the human drama but I get frustrated with the obstinate and stupid positions people take.

“There is one case I always remember, a murder trial about three years ago, where a guy was stabbed. It came down to a contest between psychiatrists. The immense support my client got from his family was overwhelming. I have never seen a family who were completely forgiving. Enjoying working with his family and the support I got from them was something that stuck with me. We ended up with a manslaughter verdict.

“Often when you have a young man going through a trial, looking at potentially life imprisonment and it’s an appallingly tragic event for everyone, your own personal feelings get effected to some degree or another but having that support from the family was rare and extraordinary.”

Last updated on the 14th September 2017