New Zealand Law Society - Tiger lady fancies grunty Jag and dinner with Keef

Tiger lady fancies grunty Jag and dinner with Keef

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Anne Stevens
Anne Stevens

As someone who takes a stand on things she thinks are wrong, Dunedin crime barrister Anne Stevens has an enviable reputation as a vigorous defence advocate for often controversial clients.

Coming to law after a brief period as a school teacher, Anne was an early-career mum, hippy, native logging and smelter protester and a breast-feeding anti-Springbok tour demonstrator.

A vicar’s warden who doesn’t believe in God, she learnt to ride on a 500cc Triumph Tiger Daytona motorbike and has enjoyed a succession of monster-engined machines – including a V12 Jaguar.

Seeing law as a better career path than teaching, she launched into her legal studies in Dunedin while bringing up three small children.

Mrs Margaret Anne (Anne) Stevens
Havelock North (Hastings Memorial Hospital)
Entry to law
Graduated BA from Canterbury University, followed by a Diploma of Teaching from Canterbury Teachers’ College. Graduated LLB from Otago University in 1987.Admitted in 1988.
Anne Stevens Barrister, Dunedin.
Speciality area
Criminal and mental health law.

She initially did a BA at Canterbury University, followed by a post graduate year at Christchurch Teachers’ College - “when you got paid $5,000, it was jolly good. My husband and I decided we would go to Takaka and set up a pottery, and I would do some relief teaching and have children.

“I was a teacher and had a two-year-old and a two-month-old when I started studying law and had three children by the time I finished.

“I liked the teaching but was not keen on the whole institution. I liked university and wanted to go back and do something else and saw law had a career with it.”

Anne previously taught for two or three years at Sydenham primary school in Christchurch - “but it wasn’t my thing”.

She moved to Takaka where her potter husband (now deceased) set up a pottery and Anne did relief teaching at Collingwood School and had children. “I was a hippy, everybody was then.”

“The Exclusive Brethren didn’t like us being in town. We were interlopers and different to them and they made us unwelcome. I imagine we upset their peaceful retreat.

“But mainly we were engaged there in trying to upset Baigent’s timber company, who were doing native tree logging.”


“I was somebody who took a stand on things I thought were wrong and belonged to CARE (Citizens’ Association for Racial Equality) and HART (Halt All Racist Tours). It was such important stuff. Apartheid was such a biggie.

“We got into trouble during the 1981 Springbok tour. I was arrested for sitting in the middle of George Street in Dunedin. There were about 60 of us. The police had to get us down to the cells and it was a bit crowded.

“They got sick of us and let us go. What were they going to do with all these women??? I got out early because I was breastfeeding and I started to leak some milk. They agreed to let me out when I said there’s someone who needs me. We were locked up for about two hours but didn’t go to court.

“We did that for six to eight weeks every Saturday, and took a whole group to Wellington for a game there. After the tour stopped we thought: ‘What do we do with our Saturdays now’?”

“When I got to Dunedin it was the time of the ‘think big’ projects and they wanted to build an aluminium smelter at Aramoana. A group of people formed and I stood for the council. We were going to take over the council, but it all went away.

“Peaceful protest is an effective form of exercising democratic rights. They were always peaceful demonstrations and they worked so we kept doing it. It’s harmless and it makes people feel heard and can be so effective. Gandhi had a good point.”

She completed her LLB in 1987, with three little children in tow and waitressing part-time “to keep body and soul together”.

“My family are doctors. One uncle, by marriage, was John Garland - a deputy mayor of Auckland - and a partner in Garland and Horrocks.”

That firm was part of a 1984 merger with Watts Patterson and Stone and Co that created one of the first major law firms to operate in both Auckland and Wellington, and evolved into Minter Ellison Rudd Watts.

“Law is not a tradition in our family – I am the only lawyer in the entire family. I thought law will sort me out, I’ll go on the straight and narrow, and it worked.”

Anne’s eldest daughter Emily Duncan (40), is an award-winning playwright who was recently named Otago University’s prestigious Robert Burns Fellow.

Daughter Adele (39), has her own catering company in Daylesford, Victoria, and daughter Elliott (32) is a dentist.

“Dunedin is such a beautiful place, it is a university town and is me to a tee. I thought it would be great for the girls, it has a good history of education and they have done well.”

Anne taught at the university for several years and continues to teach litigation skills annually.

Husband Robbie has a motorbike importing business and previously had the Harley Davidson franchise in Dunedin.

“The last time I rode was on a Vespa in Florence last year. I learned to ride on a 500cc Triumph Tiger Daytona, like Warren Beatty rode in the film Shampoo.


“I am a serious gardener and have three acres at Mt Cargill, with lots of roses, rhododendrons and herbaceous borders. I have my own chickens – including Henrietta and Georgia, and a tennis court. And 12 minutes from my office, and I’m in the country, looking down Otago harbour.”

Anne has recently done her first book review for the Otago Daily Times – Therese Anne Fowler’s A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts. “It’s a good read. I think I got a tick and hope to be reviewing on a regular basis.

“I’m fanatical about balance and every day do a combination of pilates, yoga and tai chi, because you have to be fit in this game. It’s really draining. Everybody hopes you are going to fix their problem and save them from the cell.

“I love the law, I think it’s great. It’s so good to have the rule of law and to be part of that process. I fell on my feet with that random choice of doing law.”

Anne helped launch the Otago branch of the Howard League for Penal Reform in 2009, which she says has “great principles”.

Anne Stevens
Anne Stevens

“We are always looking at why we have the criminal justice system we have that’s so punitive. And trying to find quiet ways to move the government along in looking at better alternatives.

“There’s so much shouting and so little reason. It’s really uninformed stuff. To think we now have prisons with geriatric units in them. For goodness sake.”

Anne is a vicar’s warden in the Anglican Church – in her case All Saints’ in North Dunedin – who has made headlines in the past for not believing in God.

She joined up with the church after receiving a grant from the All Saints’ trust fund which contributed to her then $400 a year law degree fees in 1981.

She works within her church, including at its weekly vegetable market in the kitchen helping prepare for sale several hundred packs of fresh vegetables a week, now in its fourth year.

She is on the board of Anglican Selwyn College and the church’s St Barnabas rest home for the elderly.

Shark swimming

“Every two years I go somewhere exciting. I’ve been to Peru, Cuba, Russia, Botswana, Italy and Belize – the last British colony - where I went caving and swimming with sharks. I’ve been to America lots of times and love the energy of New York and Chicago. And then come home to Mt Cargill.

“We went to the Antarctic in 2006 and it was so jolly good we thought we better go to the other pole. So two years later off we went to Norway and over to the Arctic. We saw penguins on one trip and polar bears the next. It’s so good and really special, on semi-scientific vessels and getting interesting lectures.

“I’ve been to most places, and my favourite holiday spot is here. I feel I’m on holiday when I’m on Mt Cargill. I’ve got my garden.”

While she says she plays the piano badly, Anne is yet another dedicated Rolling Stones fan. “Keith Richards is a miracle. I saw their last three concerts in New Zealand. Brilliant shows and seeing Keith up close was Oh My God.

“I spoke to Charlie Watts once at the airport check-in. He had on the most beautiful cashmere coat. He has good threads that man. I said thank you for the concert last night, it was excellent. He said thank you.

“What other band as soon as you hear the first riff you know who and what it is??? I love it. I sing them in the car. Beast of Burden from Some Girls is my favourite, along with Satisfaction, Brown Sugar, everything.

“I also like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.

“I’ve got a few boxes of vinyl in the attic, I’ll have to get the phonograph out and play them.

“There are so many good books out there, and with my eldest daughter being a literary type I read a book every week. I read reviews all the time and devour books. The Brontes are among my favourites and I have read them all at least three times.

“I like Charles Dickens now but used to think it was terrible at university and then you find out as an adult it is quite amazing stuff.”

But the goggle box is a no-no - “I don’t watch TV”.

“I’m crazy about brand new cars.  I love cars and have a new Land Rover Discovery Sport. I’ve had two of the big ones but this is much better, like a car.”

“I’m thinking about a Jaguar again, there’s a new Jaguar out. They have to be big. I had a champagne-coloured Jaguar V12 for a long time, at the same time as Justice Raynor Asher had a V12. I’m not name dropping it’s just that we ended up at the same event with our V12s.

“I have toy poodle called Louis who is nearly three, a German Shepherd called Silke, a black moggy cat called Lizzie and my chickens.”

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

“Keith Richards would be my dinner guest. Probably wouldn’t need anything to eat, the focus would be on the drink. Get real here.

“If I wasn’t a lawyer I would be an interior decorator. I’m really good at it and have renovated several places.

“We were on Dave Cull’s Open Home TV show years ago and I don’t mind boasting about that. I make cushions and things and advise people. I love colour, wallpaper and fabrics.

“I’ve always done up houses, I love it. I’ve got three houses at the moment, two I rent out. If they look nice then people will look after them. I get a real buzz out of it. My houses are fairly colourful. I like a bit of colour, there’s too much white and off white and that’s not me at all.

“I’m going to keep doing law while I still love it. There have been so many amazing trials it is hard to pick one out. I have been so fortunate. Forensics is fascinating, I love the challenge of it.

“I haven’t created controversy, some of my clients’ crimes have created controversy. I’m not looking for the attention. I don’t see it as being about me. The attraction for me is getting the right result.

“What is my legal ambition? I want to defend people.”

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