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Gerald Orchard, 1944 – 2003

Barrister and University of Canterbury Professor Gerald Orchard died of a brain tumour on 19 January 2003. He was aged 58.

A Canterbury graduate, Professor Orchard was also the law school’s dean for 13 years until 2001.

Born in Christchurch on 22 November 1944, Gerry Orchard was educated at Fendalton Primary School and St Andrew's College before attending Canterbury University. He graduated LLB in 1966 (winning the Canterbury District Law Society's Gold Medal for the best graduate) and LLM with first class honours in 1967. A brilliant student, he was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship in 1968 which he used to attend the University of Nottingham in England, completing a PhD in 1971.

Returning to Canterbury University, Gerald Orchard began his teaching career as a lecturer in law from 1972 to 1974. He was appointed Senior Lecturer in 1974, Reader in 1981 and Professor in 1982. In 1989 he was appointed Dean of Law and held that position for 13 years.

In 1977 he married Deidre Henderson, and the couple had one son.

Professor John Burrows of Canterbury University's law faculty says Gerry Orchard was unquestionably one of the finest legal minds of his generation:

"His scholarship was profound. His writing was marked by an encyclopaedic knowledge and attention to detail. His contribution to Adams on Criminal Law, the leading text on the subject, was enormous, and his chapter on Homicide in Simester and Brookbanks' Principles of Criminal Law has been described as 'magisterial'. There were also many articles." (University of Canterbury Chronicle, 20 February 2003).

Gerry Orchard's area of expertise was in criminal law and evidence. Outside the university this was recognised with appointment to the Government's Criminal Law Reform Committee, and advice to the Law Commission. As a barrister he appeared in a number of appeals before the Court of Appeal and he was also a presenter for the New Zealand Law Society's seminars on criminal law and its Litigation Skills programme.

Professor Burrows says Gerry was renowned as a lecturer, having the two essential attributes of comprehensive knowledge of his subject and an enthusiasm for it.

"When you coupled those attributes with Gerry's sense of humour and acting ability you had a potent recipe... He was a student-focused Dean. His door was always open and students with problems were welcome to see him at any time: he would spend as much time as it took to help them. The most touching of the letters he received on his retirement were from students who recalled his kindness to them in times of trouble. His humanity and constructive assistance benefited many."

Described by Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen Erber as “without any doubt the best criminal legal brain in the country”, Professor Orchard balanced his academic work with criminal practice and advised on new legislation – including parts of the Bail Act and proposed changes to evidence law.

Judge Erber said his experience in criminal law also led to him being “very much sought after by the judiciary for refresher courses”.

Fellow academic John Burrows says Gerry Orchard was "great fun".

"Those who attended Law School morning teas, or social functions at the Staff Club, will recall his story-telling ability and his nice turn of phrase. He enjoyed nothing more than light-hearted conversation with friends and colleagues. He was knowledgeable on sport - in particular rugby - cricket and horse-racing - and always had an opinion on what needed to be done to improve the performance of some team or other. He maintained a life-long interest in acting.

"Gerry had a rare combination of ability, wisdom, kindness and humility. He was a mainstay of the Law Faculty, and the University, for 30 years."

By Geoff Adlam, New Zealand Law Society.

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Last updated on the 5th April 2013