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Neville Clarke Jaine, 1939 - 2018

By Craig Stephen

The former acting Chief District Court Judge and head of the Police Complaints Authority, Neville Jaine, has been remembered as a man who, during a long and successful career was energetic, thoughtful and possessed a mischievous sense of humour.

Mr Jaine died on 10 November 2018 in Masterton, three weeks short of his 80th birthday.

Photo of Neville Jaine
Neville Jaine.

Sir David Carruthers, in his eulogy at Mr Jaine’s funeral, described his long-time friend as an “outstanding judge” who was always compassionate.

“His career was a huge success. It had its ups and downs, as everyone’s life does, but he spoke often in his extremely humorous way, which was never unkind and often was self-deprecating. He talked, for example, about his first day in court. In those days, of the late Magistrate’s Court, the chairs were throne-like, heavy and immovable. Nev went in, bowed, sat down on his robes, but he sat down on this immovable chair, so that he could not move his arms. He couldn’t reach the papers on the bench in front of him, nor his pen to make any notes. He told me it was like a new driver in a car, putting his seat belt on and then trying to close the driver’s door. He was completely stuck.

“In another time, when he was visiting a court, he bounced into the courtroom – he was always bouncing. He was enormously energetic and ran to and from work each day to his home. But on this occasion, he entered with vigour to show the waiting public how energetic and enthusiastic he was as a judge; his speed was such that it propelled his head powerfully on a low overhead beam, he gave himself a terrible crack, spun backwards and spent the first few cases, he said, with an internal buzzing sound in his head.”

Sir David described Neville Jaine as an excellent trainer of young judges. He said he worked fast, but with a great instinct for fairness and humour.

“Even during the toughest work, he could diffuse difficult situations by gentle humour and his kindly and ever-ready wit.

“In such stories from his morning in court, regaled as only he could so with his extraordinary ability. Such as one famous one, when he had been called on to sentence a 75-year-old shoplifter, who was charged in relation to a packet of condoms and a tube of glue. Neville’s speculation as to the combined function of those thefts had the Judge’s common room in an uproar.”

Sir David also noted that Mr Jaine was a remarkable narrator and a very polished Gilbert and Sullivan exponent with many of his speeches interspersed with songs from their operas, albeit modified for the occasion.

Mr Jaine led games of cricket in the hallways and games of ‘golf’ in the court.

Police Complaints Authority

Sir David said he was an outstanding administrator, which was recognised when he acted as Chief District Court Judge and was Executive Judge for the Wellington Region for a long time, which involved many extra duties. He was the Chairperson of the Representation Commission, which set electoral boundaries and an acting High Court judge.

He was appointed Judicial Administrator, a position that was created especially for him due to his outstanding, well-recognised administrative skills, to the Chief Justice and the Chief District Court Judge.

In 1997 he was appointed to lead the then Police Complaints Authority. Sir David said Mr Jaine told him it was the worst job he’d ever had.

“It was highly pressured, there was a lack of resources and it was consistently negative.

“But he did that work extremely well. He did not flinch from hard work – he ploughed into it, but it was difficult, unbalancing and constant and it says much for him that he dealt with it in his usual straight-bat fashion, was always fair and balanced in his decision.”

He studied at Wairarapa College and it was there that he decided to study law.

“One of his teachers in his final year at school asked him what he would do when he left, and he replied ‘yes, I think I’ll do law’ and the teacher responded ‘Oh Neville, why don’t you do something useful’,” says his daughter Kit Cohr.

There were no lawyers in the family but one of his grand-daughters is currently studying law.

After graduating from the Victoria University of Wellington he was admitted in 1978 and began work at Burridge and Blackwood (now Gawith Burridge) in Masterton. Ms Cohr says her father was invited to be a judge two years before he actually accepted due to family reasons.

In 1995 the trial of a woman who claimed to be the niece of Nelson Mandela was abandoned when a teenage boy entered the courtroom and hurled a coin at Mr Jaine, smashing his glasses and hurting his eye.

Actor and public speaker

Mr Jaine acted on the stage for many years, being heavily involved in the Masterton Theatrical Society and was also a renowned public speaker. He was part of the team, with David Logan and Rosemary Raleigh, of the Wairarapa debating team that won the New Zealand Debating Competition in which he was awarded the best speaker honour. He also judged speeches and educated people in public speaking.

Furthermore he served on his children’s school boards and was chairman of two school boards.

An all-rounder when it came to sport, Mr Jaine’s main passion was for hockey which he played from the age of eight and he played at varsity level. Later in life he would become involved in the administrative side of the sport, serving on the board of the Wellington Hockey Association board and when New Zealand held an Olympic Games qualifying tournament in Wellington, Neville Jaine was the ground’s commentator.

“He was so thorough he learnt not only how to pronounce the players’ names properly but also some of their 10 different languages, going to embassies to learn how to pronounce names and words properly,” says Ms Cohr.

He also coached hockey to schoolchildren for many years.

With (later Judge) Brian Blackwood he was the founder of an enduring lawyers' golf tournament. As reported by the Wellington District Law Society's Council Brief newsletter in December 2003:

"The first Last Resort golf tournament took place in 1968. Messrs Blackwood and Jaine were apparently travelling home to the Wairarapa after competing in the Devil's Own tournament in Palmerston North. They were bemoaning the fact that they had once again failed to make the cut and were returning home without any silverware for the cabinet. They thought that there should be one last chance in the legal golfing calendar for all golfers (like them) so the Last Resort tournament was born."

Neville Jaine was a committed Christian. “His faith was his rock and his work as a judge was based upon his Christian principles,” said Sir David.

He served on the vestry at churches in Wairarapa and in Wellington and also a synod representative and vicar’s warden.

Mr Jaine married his wife Pat in 1964. They had four children and 11 grandchildren to whom he was totally dedicated.

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Last updated on the 13th December 2018