New Zealand Law Society - Kiwi lawyer's family links to “Popgun Plot” to kill a British king

Kiwi lawyer's family links to “Popgun Plot” to kill a British king

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Anna Pollett
Anna Pollett

Prosecuting is an “absolute natural fit” for recently-appointed Tauranga Crown Solicitor Anna Pollett, a direct descendant of an English doctor accused of being part of the 1794 “Popgun Plot” to assassinate King George III.

And the icing on that historic cake came when – at a specially arranged family reunion in Taupo in January – Anna and family members met English science historian Cherry Lewis, who documented the turbulent life of that doctor - apothecary surgeon James Parkinson. Dr Parkinson is better known for his pioneering work 200 years ago in defining the common neurological disease that bears his name.

“The author knew there was a connection with New Zealand and to meet such a remarkable woman and find out so much about the family was amazing,” says Anna.

Anna Jane (Anna) Pollett
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Victoria University in 2002. Admitted in 2003.
Director at Pollett Legal, Tauranga.
Speciality area
Crown Solicitor for Tauranga.

Ms Lewis was interviewed on Radio New Zealand earlier this month by Kim Hill about her book The Enlightened Mr Parkinson: The Pioneering Life of a Forgotten English Surgeon.

Anna’s ancestor was also a political radical who advocated for the under-privileged and was an outspoken critic of the Pitt government. Dr Parkinson was involved in various social and revolutionary causes and supported the French Revolution.

In 1794 Dr Parkinson’s membership of a secret political organisation resulted in him being interrogated before William Pitt and the Privy Council to give evidence about a trumped-up plot to kill the King.

He refused to testify about his part in the so-called Popgun Plot until he was sure he would not be forced to incriminate himself. The supposed plan was to use a poisoned dart fired from a pop-gun to “bring the king’s reign to a premature conclusion.” No charges were ever brought against him but several of his friends were held in prison for many months before being acquitted.

In her book, Cherry Lewis revealed, among other things, Dr Parkinson as the author of anti-government pamphlets, a crime for which many were transported to Australia.

Ancestral history aside, Anna is settling in well as Crown solicitor for Tauranga since her appointment in August. A partner in the previously-named Hollister-Jones Lellman she renamed the firm and formed Pollett Legal, after taking over from Greg Hollister-Jones, who was appointed a district court judge last March.

“It has gone very well and I’m really enjoying it. Its three years since we moved down from Auckland and it’s been excellent. It’s a real privilege to be here and looking after a great team of three senior prosecutors, including myself, one consultant, two intermediate, two juniors and three support staff. I am lucky to have such a talented team.”

Aiming to match Sir Edmund on the Mount

The first lawyer in the family since her great grandfather Alfred Parkinson practised in Hawke’s Bay, Anna is married to Terry, who looks after their children Isabella (11) and Oliver (8), renovates and takes care of the household.

She has a sister in the Netherlands and a brother in Australia.

“We are very involved in the children’s sport and I do a lot of fitness stuff – going up Mt Maunganui. I am about to do the Everest Challenge, which is climbing the Mount 38 times in 50 days – the same distance Edmund Hillary did.”

Anna Pollett group pic
L-R: Jan O'Neill (Anna's mum), Cherry Lewis and Anna Pollett 

“I’m trying to achieve 30 minutes up and back. The Everest Challenge raises money for charity and is very popular. Both children are in the surf club and do ocean swimming. Isabella has done the under-12 Bridge to Bridge ocean swim.”

A former school hockey player, she still plays some social hockey.

Entrepreneurial daughter Isabella imported an idea from her Auckland school of a Friday café at her Tauranga school, raising money for charity, and – with Isabella moving on to intermediate – Oliver and his mates are now running it.

“They sell $1, $2 and $3 ice blocks and ice creams at school to raise money to pay for kids whose families can’t afford it to have swimming lessons, and Pollett Legal will also be sponsoring it,” says Anna.

“We were astounded at the school swimming sports to see they don’t have actual swimming lessons at school pools. They do water safety rather than teaching kids how to swim.”

A whole-family travel highlight came in late 2016 when they went to see the All Blacks in Chicago, when they lost to Ireland 40-29 at Soldier Field.

“We arrived the night the Chicago Cubs won the World Baseball Series for first time in 108 years. The street parade the next day was amazing. After that we drove from Chicago to New York and arrived in Times Square on US election night when things were looking grim for Hillary Clinton.”

Living in the best place in New Zealand

Anna has travelled in Europe and Australia visiting family but doesn’t get about New Zealand much – “there’s no reason to now that we live in the best place”.

“If we were still in Auckland we would holiday north to Tauranga Bay, past Kerikeri, Ngunguru and Tutukaka.”

“I am not a musical person, Oliver plays the piano and my playlist consists of whatever the children out on it.”

“We don’t watch television so much, usually Designated Survivor or Homeland, and again we tend to watch what the children want.”

Not sure what she wanted to do when she left school, she got a full-time job as a legal executive in the litigation unit at Inland Revenue, while studying part-time.

Her legal career started off in Meredith Connell’s revenue team with Mike Ruffin. “I started doing more criminal prosecutions – which is an absolute natural fit for me.”

“It is a role you keep developing in and is hugely interesting. It was more of an evolution than knowing 20 years ago that law was what I wanted to do.”

A seven-seater V6 Toyota Highlander moves the family around, with room for golden retriever Coco and springer spaniel Joey.

“And there’s a cat called Max, a chocolate Burmese who is nearly 18 and has been everywhere with me.”

The couple entertain a lot and the one person Anna would love to have round for dinner is her late, dear friend Moana Schwalger, a former prosecuting colleague from Meredith Connell, who died at 35, 18 months after being diagnosed with breast cancer soon after the birth of her third child in 2011.

A scholarship honouring the successful Samoan-Kiwi lawyer remembered for her generosity is helping Pasifika law students. The annual $10,000 scholarship was established in Ms Schwalger’s memory by Meredith Connell, along with the Pacific Lawyer’s Association, for Auckland University law students of Pacific Island or Maori descent.

Anna says prosecuting complex sexual offending where she is dealing with multiple complainants is the most satisfying.

She has two homicides “on the books” at the moment and prosecuted several while at Meredith Connell with leaders Kieran Raftery and Aaron Perkins – “two remarkable advocates”.

“I am doing essentially my dream job, so why change?”

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