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Justice Bradley Harle Giles, 1944 – 1999

by John Katz QC

It is always a tragedy when a sitting judge of the High Court dies in office. It is all the more so when that happens just two years after appointment.

The late Justice Giles was appointed to the High Court bench on 6 March 1997 after two years as a silk. Not long after his appointment the judge was diagnosed as having a cancer that would ultimately take his life. Despite the heavy toll taken by the treatment in the last few months he kept working to the end.

Born in Te Kuiti, Brad Giles received his tertiary education at Auckland University and was admitted in December 1972. There followed a post-graduate course at the university in Michigan where he attained a Masters Degree.

Most of his early career was spent with Russell McVeagh McKenzie Bartleet & Co where he became a partner in 1974. He left that firm in April 1991 to practise as a barrister, joining Jim Farmer QC and Stuart Grieve QC in Eldon Chambers.

Widely respected for his expertise in maritime law, he was regularly engaged while still in partnership and then at the separate bar to advise on and litigate in this particularly arcane area of jurisprudence with a decidedly practical approach.

His practice, however, was broad including a considerable off-shore practice in the Cook Islands where he served for a time as Advocate General.

His expertise in Cook Islands law, particularly native land issues and constitutional dispute, was commented on at his swearing in as a judge.

Regarded as having an incisive mind, outstanding intellect and integrity beyond any reproach, the judge was obviously destined for a future on the bench. But that was also because he considered, as he himself put it, that as the law had been kind to him, he had an obligation to give something back to the community.

With a keen sense of justice, he was a person of enormous humanity. When the illness that finally took his life was already taking its toll physically, he continued to work tirelessly – including fulfilling his obligations on circuit. Just prior to his death he took home two judgments to work on in recognition of the commitment he had made to serve the public and the parties who appeared before him.

A fearless, utterly dedicated and meticulous individual, he also demanded the highest of standards from the profession. The respect the profession had for him ensured that such was forthcoming.

To Justice Giles, the law was in every sense of the word a profession. In an era when it is fashionable to find the easy solution, to avoid the unpleasant tasks or simply to take a short-cut, the judge eschewed any such notions.

A committed Christian, Justice Giles brought to the bench the values and morals his faith instilled in him, his social conscience and common touch, his formidable intellect and his absolute commitment to his work. A fellow judge described the enormous respect that others on the bench had developed for him in his short time on the bench in Auckland.

Justice Giles is survived by his wife Pru, daughter Natasha and son Stuart.

Perhaps these words of Alexander Pope capture truly the spirit of the man:

But where’s the man who counsel can bestow,

Still pleased to teach, and yet not proud to know?

Unbias’d, or by favour, or by spite;

Not dully prepossess’d nor blindly right;

Though learn’d, well-bred; and though well-bred, sincere;

Modestly bold, and humanly severe:

Who to a friend his faults can freely show,

And gladly praise the merit of a foe?

Justice Giles leaves to us all his legacy of profound professionalism in every sense of the word.

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Last updated on the 11th May 2012