John Gibson QC was a distinguished Wellington lawyer, whose wide interests went beyond the law into cricket, music and collecting.
After secondary education at Wanganui Collegiate John Gibson studied law at Victoria University of Wellington, was admitted as solicitor in March 1960 and as a barrister in January 1961, and went to work with the much admired Roy Stacey.
In the firm Stacey & Smith, later Stacey Smith & Gibson, he distinguished himself as a leading criminal defence lawyer. Sir Thomas Eichelbaum said in his tribute that John Gibson was a logical legal thinker who was ever conscious of his professional obligations, his duty to his client, and his duty to the court. “Even as a young man, John showed judgment and strength of character by not trying to adopt Roy’s unique courtroom style. There was nothing flamboyant about John’s advocacy… He did his conscientious best for those who consulted him and never more so when he believed the client had suffered injustice. He was, in short, a true professional.”
John Gibson became a barrister sole in April 1978 and continued his interest in criminal law as a member of the International Criminal Bar Association. He became an acknowledged specialist in matrimonial cases, particularly matrimonial property at which, Sir Thomas says, he was top of the field with his name featured in many significant court of appeal decisions.
He was chairman of the New Zealand Law Society Criminal Law Committee, the New Zealand Law Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, the New Zealand Stock Exchange disciplinary Tribunal and the Motor Vehicle Dealers Licensing Board.
Sir Thomas says Mr Gibson conducted himself in court with exemplary courtesy. “One of the qualities judges value most in lawyers is reliability, and in John’s case judges knew they could rely on him completely. In those respects he was a role model for any young counsel.”
John Gibson had another life beyond the law and pursued varying interests with great enthusiasm. He was a good cricketer and played for the Wanganui Collegiate first XI for four years. In Wellington, he played for Wellington College Old Boys Cricket Club for a number of years and captained the second of its senior teams. He went on to become Wellington selector in 1981-82 and was team manager until 1987. He was manager of the NZ cricket team in 1994, president of Wellington Wanderers Cricket Club and president of Cricket Wellington from 2001 to 2003.
John Gibson was also an avid collector – of antiques, paintings, medallions, model soldiers and porcelain. He had a substantial library on cricket, its history and its characters, and a collection of cricket ties from around the world.
Brian Brooks said he did not know that John Gibson was a collector of great repute. “Many at the funeral were surprised to learn about this [reflecting that] he was a very private person.”
Brian Brooks says the words friends used to describe John Gibson were “elegant”, “witty”, and “kind”.
Sir Thomas: “Lawyers and judges will remember him as a good colleague and friend, a person of integrity, a credit to himself and his profession.”
This obituary was first published in Council Brief, August 2009.