New Zealand Law Society - Father's example lured daughter to "addictive" courtwork

Father's example lured daughter to "addictive" courtwork

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By Jock Anderson

Tiffany Mary (Tiffany) Cooper
Lower Hutt. 
Entry to law
Graduated LLB, with part BA, from Victoria University in 1999. Admitted in 1999. 
Barrister in Sentinel Chambers, Auckland. 
Speciality area
Criminal defence. Pro bono panel of SPCA prosecutors.

After ten years prosecuting, Tiffany Cooper left Auckland Crown Solicitor Meredith Connell as a senior associate in 2014 to take on criminal defence work at the independent bar.

“It was a big jump, particularly coming from the resources and working with high-quality criminal lawyers at Meredith Connell,” Tiffany says.

“But having been a prosecutor for most of my career I felt it was important as an advocate to experience the other side of the law. It is a great and essential lesson in life to see the other side.”

Tiffany was inspired to go into law by her father, former Wellington-based District Court Judge the late Ewen Robertson, originally from Gore, who was also a defence barrister.

“From a young age I wanted to go into court and watch Dad, he was so honest and honourable and such a wonderful role model. I thought everyone in law was like him and then you get into law and find it’s not always like that.”

Her last five years as a prosecutor were spent specialising in sexual violence cases where her most memorable trial involved a “white middle-class businessman” accused of “absolutely harrowing” sexual sadism offences against boys and girls in the 1970s and 1980s aged between six and ten.

“He ran a defence that all his victims who came forward were lying. Some of our male witnesses were well known crims, shady characters, while he had character witnesses saying how wonderful he was.

“We were concerned the jury would not believe our witnesses. After a hard going three month High Court trial there was an 11 to one hung jury in favour of a guilty verdict.

“At his second trial he was found guilty on most charges and jailed. Everything was stacked against the prosecution in that case but the jury saw the realism of what our witnesses – some of them gang members – had endured.”

“He gave evidence at both trials and eventually revealed himself as a cold, calculating man … It’s good when the odds are stacked against you to get justice for victims …

“And yes, I would represent that man as a defence lawyer – everyone is entitled to a robust defence …”

A “huge dog lover” with a passion for re-homing dogs - she now has two mongrels at home rather than five - Tiffany is one of a number of lawyers who make up a pro bono panel of prosecutors for the SPCA, and is working on a dog cruelty prosecution she expects will take three months to process.

In her busy “settling in” time as an Auckland-based defence barrister Tiffany has taken on trials in Rotorua and Hamilton, as well as juggling husband Jonathan, a step-son (11), step-daughter (7) and dogs at the weekend.

English-born husband Jonathan is a lawyer, psychologist, with a business masters who travels the world – mainly in the UK, Tanzania and Nigeria – giving risk management advice to mining companies.

“We are keen hikers in the Waitakere Ranges and our goal later this year is the Milford Track – but not the easy way. We might also look at the Heaphy.

“I like getting away from the courtroom and being outside with the family - we talk a lot and unwind …”

In between sessions of “fast and intense” cardio-vascular yoga, she watches Babylon and The Missing (James Nesbit) and the Kevin Spacey US version of House of Cards.

“And you can’t watch a legal drama without being disappointed and wanting to edit it.

“When I am away on a trial Jonathan manages the home and children. Being on the same page and working as a team we can just about do anything. But I know a lot of people who don’t have that support at home …

“There are no other lawyers in the family. My brother Slade was too bright for law. He went into business, runs his own funds management company and gets to travel all over the world.

“He is interested in figures, I’m more interested in facts and people, that’s what makes the legal process more interesting …

“I love testing the character and the people. I love the language of the courts … It’s almost addictive … It’s about testing evidence and ensuring your case stands up to scrutiny …”

Like many crime lawyers Tiffany is keenly following the Mark Lundy retrial in Wellington, where her old boss Ross Burns is one of the defence barristers conducting a ferocious attack on the Crown case.

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for several decades. He also writes the weekly Caseload column for the New Zealand Herald. Contact Jock at

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