By Jock Anderson
- Timothy James (Tim) Orr
- Fermanagh, the sixth county of Northern Ireland.
- Entry to law
- Graduated Dundee University LLB(Hons) in 2008. Admitted in New Zealand September 2013.
- Barrister and solicitor, Haigh Lyon, Auckland.
- Speciality area
- Trust and property law.
When teenager Tim Orr decided to “flee” Fermanagh – Northern Ireland’s forgotten county – for a new life, he didn’t figure on later fleeing from machete-wielding men in Kenya angry that he helped expose a prison paedophile.
Or spending his days in a horrible African jail trying to get justice for juveniles unable to bribe police to get legal representation.
Or being part of a public inquiry which challenged the methods used by Scottish police in the 1990s involving fingerprint evidence.
Tim has packed a lot into his 29 years.
At Dundee University – where he went because it was the only Scottish university that taught English law – he studied international criminal, maritime and marine resources law.
Through the Lawyers Christian Fellowship (LCF) he landed a job with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, lobbying for the rights of children.
“We were involved with the rights of children, including human trafficking, sex trafficking and children being forced into slavery and lobbying mainly African and Asian delegates to improve the plight of children.
“It was difficult getting them to a point where they would vote because they had many more pressing needs within their own countries.”
When he was offered the choice of remaining in Geneva or helping youngsters in an African prison, Tim chose Mombasa, in Kenya, where the LCF was working to get legal representation for young inmates and to separate juveniles from adult prisoners.
“In Kenya a person can spend up to three years in jail waiting for their case to be heard in court. 95% of prisoners get no legal representation.
“Someone can be held in prison without trial until their family come up with enough money to bribe the police to have the case heard.”
His introduction to Mombasa’s Shimo La Tewa jail in mid-2008 was grim. Built in British colonial style for 500 prisoners, it held about 3,500 and was run by a tough-as-nails female commandant.
“On my first day at Shimo La Tewa all hell broke loose; there was a riot, screaming, shooting, and prisoners refused to come down from mango trees originally planted by the British for shade.
“The commandant ordered them down immediately and when they didn’t guards starting chopping the trees with axes – that brought the them down.
“We were locked in a room with about 50 prisoners and no guards, to talk to prisoners about the court process and how they could represent themselves at a basic level.
“People were in the room for everything from stealing a goat to assault and robbery with violence – at least those on capital crimes such as murder were separated.
“We were looking for children under 14 who should have been in a juvenile remand centre. Many had been subjected to serious abuse and torture, but with none of it showing on their file.”
Part of his time was spent dealing with tricky polygamous family cases and working out practical maintenance arrangements when, for example, a man wanted to take a third or fourth wife but did not want to support the others.
Tim spent one day a week at the juvenile remand centre: “A hellish experience.”
“There were kids there from three months old to 14 or 15 years. Some were in conflict with the law, some were vulnerable witnesses, some were displaced children – all lumped in together in small huts in appalling conditions.”
The LCF workers found evidence of shocking abuse and exposed a paedophile official within the prison.
“He was reposted but not before threatening us. On our way back from the prison one day we were attacked and chased by men with machetes.”
Mombasa’s prison was not too bad compared to Nairobi prison where guards were beating prisoners to death.
But Tim’s time in Africa was not without its lighter moments.
Once near the Kenya/Uganda border they were approached by a man in military fatigues with an AK47, others with rifles and others with spears.
“There was a bit of a chat when a cell phone started ringing – in the middle of nowhere. I expected it was the guy with the AK but, no, one of the spear-carriers pulled a Nokia from his loincloth… I bought one of his spear heads…”
Back in Britain he joined former Irish Appeal Court judge Sir Anthony Campbell’s public Fingerprint Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the alleged finding of a police woman’s print at the scene of a Glasgow murder.
The inquiry established that fingerprint identification techniques used by the Scottish police at the time were wrong.
[In May 1997, David Asbury was convicted of the murder of Marion Ross. The prosecution case against him included fingerprint evidence.
In the course of the inquiry a fingerprint identified as that of Shirley McKie, a police officer working on the murder, was found on the doorframe of Miss Ross’s bathroom.
At Mr Asbury’s trial, Ms McKie denied she was inside the house and claimed she could not have left her fingerprint – which became known as Y7 - where it was found.
Ms McKie was later prosecuted for perjury but found not guilty by a unanimous jury.
The Crown did not oppose Mr Asbury’s appeal and his murder conviction was quashed in 2002.
The steps taken to identify and verify print Y7, and the measures that might be taken to avoid any shortcomings in the identification and verification of fingerprints in the future in Scotland had not previously been the subject of a pubic judicial inquiry.]
After that Tim and his Scottish-born wife Mairi – whose step-mum is from Gore – packed five suitcases and came to New Zealand, where he was documents and precedents manager for the Auckland District Law Society Inc for four years.
Qualifying in New Zealand, he was admitted in 2013 and joined Haigh Lyon a year ago.
Away from work he enjoys cycling, hiking, clay target shooting and is a church youth leader.
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 email@example.com.